Issue - decisions
Council considered a report submitted to the City Executive Board on 15 December 2016 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.
Councilresolved to approve the inclusion of the City Council in the submission of a devolution bid to government for a combined authority and a directly 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
The Assistant Chief Executive submitted a report which updated the Board on the proposals for devolution and sought authorisation for further joint working in support of those proposals.
The Executive Board Member, Corporate Strategy and Economic Development and the Chief Executive presented the report. The Board acknowledged that the overall objective of devolution was to stimulate the economy, deliver improved services and make savings for the benefit of the residents of Oxfordshire.
The Board noted that:
· there were sufficient resources to meet the additional budget
· that the details of the consultation process would be developed as part of this study by the external consultants, and that it would look at best practice models from other local authorities such as Dorset County Council
· that initial feedback from Government indicated that the City and District Council proposals for devolution needed to be more ambitious and innovative in terms of governance (e.g. elected mayor and fewer tiers)
· that the terms of reference for the study by the external included the requirement to look at a range of alternative models and options, including cross-boundary arrangements
· that the proposals would be evaluated on the following criteria:
o improved and sustainable strong leadership
o value for money
o improved service delivery
o transition costs
The City Executive Board resolved to:
1. Agree to work with the other District Councils and partners to further develop the initial unitary devolution proposals.
2. Agree that independent consultants should be jointly appointed by the Districts to undertake detailed work and a contribution of up to £50k be made to facilitate those studies.
3. Recommend Council to allocate the budget of £50k to support the initial study on viability and sustainability and governance; specialist work on collaboration around Children and Adult services; public consultation and involvement; and preparation of a revised Devolution Deal. This will be funded from reserves and balances.
The award of contract to PWC to undertake the consultancy of an Oxfordshire Unitary study on behalf of Oxford City Council and 6 District Councils.
Council resolved to allocate the budget of £50k to support the initial study on viability and sustainability and governance; specialist work on collaboration around Children and Adult services; public consultation and involvement; and preparation of a revised Devolution Deal. This will be funded from reserves and balances.