(Local Councils) Following Essex County Council’s commitment to progress its devolution agenda, the District Council is invited to share its own plans for taking over services from Essex County Council and/or devolving others to local councils.
The Leader of the District Council and the Director of Neighbourhoods will report to the Committee in this respect.
The local councils requested that, following Essex County Council’s commitment to progress its devolution agenda, the District Council share its own plans for taking over services from Essex County Council and/or devolving others to local councils.
The Leader of the District Council, Councillor C. Whitbread reported that the fifteen local councils of Greater Essex (Essex County Council, the district, borough and city councils and the Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock unitary authorities) had been working together to explore and develop devolution proposals which could see the transfer of powers and funding from central Government to a Greater Essex Authority. Whilst the proposals were not yet fully developed and any ‘deal’ would need to be considered by the Council before a final decision was reached, it was possible that devolution could bring benefits and greater local control over issues such as:
· the growth of the local economy in a sustainable way;
· the application of skills funding to ensure that training matched current and future business need;
· increased inward investment and job creation, and
· initiatives to tackle some of the transport and infrastructure challenges of the area.
The Committee was advised that, in order to agree to devolving power, the Government required the development of proposals that showed ambition in terms of outcomes, strong governance arrangements and a realistic prospect of delivery. Councillor Whitbread reported that, although a high-level submission had been made to the Government in September 2015 to confirm the Greater Essex Partnership’s interest in a devolution arrangement, there was still not enough information available to make an informed decision about a final deal and that the case for devolution to a Greater Essex Authority was yet to be made.
The Committee was advised that it was anticipated that a more detailed submission would be made to the Government in December 2015, setting out the basis of a devolution deal and the approach to new governance arrangements, which would commence the detailed negotiation phase with the Government. Members noted that it was not likely that the detail of any final devolution deal, including any new governance model (such as a combined authority), would be available until March 2016 at the earliest. As a result, it was not currently possible to consider the substance of any services or functions that might subsequently be devolved to town and parish councils, although the Chief Executive of the District Council encouraged local councils to consider potential areas for devolution that they might wish to discuss with him or Councillor Whitbread at a later stage in the process. Members were advised however, that it might not be possible for the District Council to delegate responsibility for particular services, the provision of which might be of interest to local councils.
(1) That the report be noted;
(2) That a further report be made to a future meeting of the Committee once the detail of any devolution deal reached with the Government has been finalised; and
(3) That pursuant to resolution (2) above, a special meeting of the Committee be convened if necessary, to further consider the devolution proposals of the Greater Essex Partnership.