Devolution Update – Combined Authority and directly Elected Mayor proposal
Decision Maker: Council
Decision status: Recommendations approved
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: Yes
Following the CEB meeting on 15 December 2016 –
Council is recommended to supports in principle the submission of a devolution bid with a governance model based on the current two-tier structure for local government with a combined authority and elected mayor.
The Assistant Chief Executive submitted a report which updated members on recent developments on devolution and makes a recommendation to Council to support in principle the submission of a devolution bid with a governance model based on the current two-tier structure for local government with a combined authority and elected mayor.
The Assistant Chief Executive presented the report. She explained that the government wanted to see devolution deals with robust governance arrangements and proof of commitment from affected local authorities. The government has linked growth funding to areas that have agreed strong governance structures especially those with elected mayors.
This issue was discussed at the LEP last week and it was suggested that each council demonstrate commitment to devolution in Oxfordshire. Hence the need for the late report.
Future government funding for major infrastructural projects such as East West Rail is reliant on governance arrangements being agreed.
The County continues to push their single unitary proposal as well as this combined authority model (outlined in the report).
Cllr Price said that substantial elements of the devolution proposal aren’t contentious and binds people together. There are issues around the functions of a combined authority and what an elected mayor would do, and how they would operate within the current local government structure.
Cllr Gant spoke as leader of the opposition. He welcomed the proposal but believed the people of Oxford needed more details on who would be democratic accountability. He felt the Board was wrong not to consider a re-organisation of local government in Oxford as a first step, as a combined authority would require additional money to operate
Cllr Hollingsworth said that a combined authority is to take power from government not from the councils. Re-organisation requires consensus. The danger is that the government perceives Oxfordshire as being more interested in talking about governance structures rather than focusing on outcomes. He suggested looking at Suffolk’s devolution proposal and the approach they are taking. He believed it was better for re-organisation to be organic rather than forced.
Cllr Tanner said he favoured the proposal but was not sure the County Council was in favour of the scheme, given that they were still pushing for a single unitary.
Cllr Price said the government had made it clear that devolution from White Hall was key and they want an elected mayor to be responsible and to be held to account. Government money is desperately needed in the city and the county for transport and infrastructure. The County would be foolish to stand in the way of this proposal.
The City Executive Board resolved to
Recommend to Council that it approves the inclusion of the City Council in the submission of a devolution bid to government for a combined authority and a directly elected mayor
Report author: Caroline Green
Publication date: 19/12/2016
Date of decision: 15/12/2016
Decided at meeting: 15/12/2016 - City Executive Board (became Cabinet on 13 May 2019)
Effective from: 22/12/2016