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Councillor Izzi Seccombe (Leader of Council and Chair of Cabinet) opened the meeting. In doing so she explained that the Dispensations Sub-Committee of the Council had met on 26 August to agree dispensations for those members of the County Council who sat on district and borough councils or whose partners sat on district and borough councils. Without the dispensations, which were granted, a significant number of members would not have been able to participate fully in the debate on devolution.
Cabinet was also informed that although the Council’s Constitution excludes elected representatives from district and borough councils from speaking on matters pertaining to their councils, the Chair was prepared to make an exception in this instance.
Members' disclosure of Pecuniary and Non-Pecuniary Interests
The following members declared a pecuniary interest.
Councillor Barker – Member of Stratford District Council and Stratford Town Council as well as Chair of an academy trust
Councillor Singh Birdi – Member of Warwick Town Council
Councillor Boad – Member of Warwick District Council as is her husband
Councillor Butlin – Member of Rugby Borough Council
Councillor Cargill – Member of Stratford District Council
Councillor Crump – Member of Stratford District Council
Councillor Falp – Member of Whitnash Town Council and Warwick District Council
Councillor Gifford – Member of Warwick District Council. His wife is a member of Leamington Town Council
Councillor Golby – Member of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council
Councillor Phillips – Husband is member of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council
Councillor Roodhouse – Member of Rugby Borough Council
Councillor Sargeant – Member of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council as is his wife.
Councillor Simpson Vince – Member of Rugby Borough Council
Councillor Timms – Member of Rugby Borough Council
To note any requests to speak on any items that are on the agenda in accordance with the Council’s Public Speaking Scheme (see footnote to this agenda).
Councillor Izzi Seccombe welcomed the three public speakers.
1. Councillor Andrew Day – Leader of Warwick District Council
Referring to the report appended to the published paper Councillor Day questioned whose it was. Was it a report by PWC or the County Council? Referring to page 38 of the appendix Councillor Day observed that although there was reference to consultation on proposals with partners, there was no reference to consultation with district and borough councils. In terms of the forecast savings given in the report, Councillor Day asked to see the detail behind the figures. He suggested that slowing down the process would allow all six principal authorities to work together to present a joint case.
2. Councillor Adam Farrell – Leader of the Labour Group on North Warwickshire Borough Council
Councillor Farrell opened by suggesting that any understanding that business cases for devolution submitted in September 2020 would be included in tranche 1 was incorrect. He suggested that the PWC report before Cabinet lacked balance adding that a unitary structure would not necessarily result in the levelling up of residents’ life chances across the county. The solution, he suggested was to retain district and borough councils allowing local knowledge to inform decisions.
The need to review local government was acknowledged but before any decisions are made there needs to be comprehensive consultation with communities and the district and borough councils.
3. Councillor Julie Jackson – Leader of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council
Councillor Jackson challenged why the County Council appeared to be rushing into devolution adding that it was unlikely that Warwickshire would be in tranche 1. The need to consult fully was emphasised. The levelling up of life chances had never been achieved by the County Council and there was little chance that a unitary council would fare better. Councillor Jackson asked that the County Council not assume what residents want.
A report concerning Devolution and Local Government reform in Warwickshire.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe opened the item stating that on 24 June 2020 Warwick District Council and Stratford District Council had issued a press release stating that they were jointly looking to merge and share services. This impacts on all councils in Warwickshire. This triggered a letter from Councillor Seccombe to all the Leaders of the five district and borough councils proposing a joint Warwickshire local government reform project. The County Council commissioned PWC to prepare the report before Cabinet with a view to it being the start of the conversation. Councillor Seccombe emphasised that the Senior civil servant overseeing has stated that a submission made by one council will not diminish submissions made by other councils. All councils in Warwickshire need to engage in the process with a view to finding the best solution for all councillors and residents.
Cabinet was reminded that the present government had made an election pledge to reform local government. The Covid-19 pandemic had illustrated how well councils could work together but it had also highlighted the shortcomings and frustrations of the present system. If it is decided that a unitary approach is the best then, to ensure that local interests are also secure, a form of double-devolution would need to be considered.
Councillor Jeff Clarke (Portfolio Holder for Transport and Planning) recognised the need for local government reform and emphasised that local democracy would need to be maintained. The timing of the review had advantages and disadvantages. The need for local authorities to take the lead was emphasised. With specific reference to his portfolio, Councillor Clarke observed that a single system would help in terms of spatial planning, transport planning and highway maintenance. The splitting in two of those functions currently carried out by the County Council would see costs increase significantly. Councillor Clarke agreed that double-devolution would assist in maintaining a local dimension to democracy.
Councillor Keith Kondakor raised a series of points. 1) What would be the implication of unitarisation of local planning and development targets? 2) What would be the impact on efforts to address climate change? 3) Benefits could be brought through unitarisation for public transport provision and air quality. At present responsibilities are split between district/borough councils and the County Council. 4) The PWC report makes no reference to housing. 5) Democracy must be protected. People should be given a say in what is being proposed and at the same time civic functions should be protected.
Councillor Kondakor added that new structures are required particularly with regards public transport and waste management. he reminded Cabinet that Covid-19, climate change and the need for economic recovery are critical and closed by suggesting that if a unitary authority was to be created it should have its headquarters in Nuneaton or Bedworth.
Councillor Helen Adkins (Leader of the Labour Group) stated that she agreed with many of the comments made earlier by speakers. She considered that the report had been rushed and that it lacked balance. There had been no consultation with ... view the full minutes text for item 2.