Future of Local Councils?

Dear Residents,

The Future of Local Councils – ‘Combined Authorities’ – So called ‘Devolution’

I attended the LGA conference on this subject this month (17th Oct, 2016). I think I was the only representative from Lewes District Council. We had a fairly detailed presentation about Cornwall and Greater Sheffield. In addition, there were a number of other speakers. I was particularly interested in the talks by:

  • Prof Jane Wills of Queen Mary University of London
  • Neil Cleeverley of NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action)
  • Judith Edwards, CEO of the Citizens Advice Bureau

Judith Edwards said the CAB has amassed a lot of statistical information about the UK. She presented some of the sats in her presentation. I also was interested to talk to the representative from NALC. They are developing a toolkit for local councils to help them deal with these new combined authorities.

Click here for the full list of speakers and attendees: LGA – Seminar Oct 2016

It’s interesting they weren’t just talking about the main subject of this conference but lots of other things to do with the state, the citizen, neighbourhoods, participation, scrutiny, data about communities to name just a few. I also attended the workshops where there was much more participation with other council officials and councillors from around the country. I attended the Democratic Engagement and Scrutiny workshops. Here is the link to copies of the slides used in the main presentations: Click here  Also you may be interested in the main LGA devolution website: Click Here

It seems to me that the so-called government ‘devolution’ via ‘combined authorities’ is a juggernaut moving inexorably on without any consultation with local residents. I wanted to find out more, so I attended and indeed what I did find out was very concerning. We had a detailed presentation about ‘Greater Sheffield’ which has been working at their set up for over four years. I met a councillor from Gloucester County Council who said they had been working at it for 18 months and seem to be getting nowhere. The only new combined authority that seemed to be operating currently is Cornwall.

Words like: confusing, time-consuming, potentially undemocratic and without significant benefits for the local community come to mind when thinking about this government’s approach to this so-called ‘devolution.’

If you would like any further information about this conference please let me know.

Notes:

  1. The joint arrangements between Lewes and Eastbourne councils should not be confused with the government’s proposals for ‘combined authorities’ and ‘devolution’. Both councils maintain their sovereignty. The objective of the exercise with Eastbourne is, amongst other things, to share staff and resources this reducing overheads for both councils.  Click here for details (as of May 2016)
  2. For completeness, I summarise below, the current local situation:

Three Southern Counties (3SC): There are a number of ‘partners’ in the Three Southern Counties (3SC), (East Sussex, Surrey and West Sussex) devolution group. The aim is take ‘greater control’ over their road and rail network, provide confidence in housing delivery, pioneer new digital technology and launch University Enterprise Zones to support high-tech businesses. The ‘devolution’ prospectus, was submitted to the UK Government in Sept 2015. There appears to be 44 ‘partner’ organisations. These include 23 district and borough councils, three local enterprise partnerships, 12 clinical commissioning groups and two police forces, as well as the South Downs National Park and East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service. A formal ‘concordat’ with neighbouring Brighton and Hove Council is also being/has been drawn up. Click here for more details. The main 3SC website is:

https://surreyandsussex.wordpress.com/

Greater Brighton City Region: A ‘City Deal’ for the Greater Brighton City Region was agreed with government in 2014. For more information click below:

The joint council web page

The Government’s document

 

 

 

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