To receive this report.
The Committee received a report from the Strategic Manager, Governance & Risk on the progress of the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Joint Committee.
Members were first updated on the background of work carried out over the last two years by 19 Devon and Somerset authorities to seek a devolution deal for the area to bring down Government powers, functions and funding to improve productivity for the area. It was confirmed that a clear indication has been given that this could be achieved without the need for an elected mayor.
The HotSW agreed to establish a Joint Committee to progress its productivity strategy and put in place a formal mechanism to take forward negotiations with government on a range of policy agendas with a view to achieving additional benefits for the region. The Joint Committee model was designed to add additional benefit to the constituent authorities and it was stressed that this would not take powers away from the constituent authorities.
A series of recommendations required to establish the Joint Committee will now be taken through the constituent authorities over the autumn period via a template report to ensure consistency with a view to the Joint Committee being established by January 2018. These recommendations will be taken through SCC’s Cabinet and Full Council in November 2017.
The template report will be accompanied by an ‘Arrangements’ document outlining the legal status, purpose, aims and objectives, membership and functions of the Committee. In summary the body established by this process will be a formal joint committee of the 17 councils and two National Park authorities. Each constituent authority will have one ‘seat’ on the Committee and it is anticipated that these will be filled by Council Leaders. The LEP and the CCGs will have non-voting representation.
The report also detailed the proposed list of functions for the Joint Committee and the draft figures for the Joint Committee budget.
The Committee discussed the challenge of aligning 19 different authorities and were informed that there are only so many democratic structures that can be put in place. The Joint Committee is a mechanism that everyone can agree to. It’s an appropriate governance modal for this point in time.
The Committee queried whether government funding and Committee budget figures would be sufficient. There is no separate officer team needed currently for the Joint committee as officer time is being committed on an ‘in kind’ basis. If this ‘in kind’ commitment continues then the budgeted figures are realistic. If it was withdrawn then the costs would rise. Funds from central government are negotiated when the Joint Committee presents its business case.
It was clarified that only Local Authorities can form the Joint Committee membership due to limits set by legislation. The national Parks count as Local Authorities under the legislation but the CCG and LEP can only be non-voting partners.
The Committee noted the report.