Venue: Virtual Meeting - Zoom Committee Meeting with Public Access via YouTube. View directions
Contact: Johanna Holmes
Link: Watch Live Webcast
The Chair welcomed the attendees to the Extraordinary meeting. The meeting was conducted via video conference.
The Extraordinary meeting was arranged to consider three elements; to assess the proposals for North Somerset to join the West of England Combined Authority; to consider the Mayor’s view on the proposals and to understand the criteria required for this to be accepted; and to consider possible next steps.
Apologies for Absence and Substitutions
Apologies were received from:
· Councillor Mark Weston
· Councillor Fabian Breckels with Councillor Don Alexander as substitute
· Councillor Kevin Quartley with Councillor Lesley Alexander as substitute
· Councillor Mark Wright with Councillor Gary Hopkins as substitute
Declarations of Interest
To note any declarations of interest from the Councillors. They are asked to indicate the relevant agenda item, the nature of the interest and in particular whether it is a disclosable pecuniary interest.
Any declarations of interest made at the meeting which is not on the register of interests should be notified to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion.
No declarations of interest were made.
Up to 30 minutes is allowed for this item.
Any member of the public or Councillor may participate in Public Forum. The detailed arrangements for so doing are set out in the Public Information Sheet at the back of this agenda. Public Forum items should be emailed to email@example.com and please note that the following deadlines will apply in relation to this meeting:-
Questions - Written questions must be received 3 clear working days prior to the meeting. For this meeting, this means that your question(s) must be received in this office at the latest by 5pm on Wednesday 30th December 2020.
Petitions and Statements - Petitions and statements must be received on the working day prior to the meeting. For this meeting this means that your submission must be received in this office at the latest by 12.00 noon on Tuesday 5th January 2021.
Register to Attend- Your intention to attend and speak to your Public Forum
submission must be received 2 clear working days prior to the meeting. For this
meeting, this means that your registration to attend must be received in this
office at the latest by 5pm on Thursday 31st December.
Public Forum questions and statements were published prior to the meeting and can be viewed here
David Redgewell asked two Public Forum questions and received written responses. As a supplementary question he asked whether the Chief Executive was aware of the issues around the Greater Somerset devolution deal, and if a response to the proposals had been sent to the Secretary of State. The Chief Executive responded that they were aware of the review, but that Bristol City Council had not been approached to express views.
David Redgewell spoke to a submitted Public Forum statement, emphasising the need to work with the Secretary of State.
Councillor Huw James asked a Public Forum question on ensuring the prosperity of the region and received a written response.
Councillor Clive Stevens asked two Public Forum questions and received written responses. As a supplementary question he asked to clarify the responsibility for the referenced governance review required by government. The Mayor referred to a letter sent by Simon Clarke in August 2020 outlining this requirement; the responsibility remained with WECA.
As an additional supplementary question Councillor Stevens asked to clarify the process for a governance review. This was not established within the discussions held and was not known.
Councillor Paula O’Rourke asked three Public Forum questions and received written responses. As a supplementary question she asked if alternative regional development projects and processes had contributed to the current status. The Mayor suggested that this was likely to have had minimal impact beyond raising questions over the nature of what would be available.
Laura Wells presented a public forum statement on behalf of the Bristol Disabled Equalities Forum. This was noted by the Commission.
Christina Biggs presented a public forum statement on behalf of the Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways. This was noted by the Commission. It was clarified that there are two separate projects referred to as ‘Western Gateway’. The statement posed a number of questions that were agreed to be addressed in the meeting.
Additional public forum statements were noted.
RESOLVED; That the Public Forum be noted.
a) What evidence was available to leaders detailing the benefits (i.e. investment, economic etc.) and disadvantages of North Somerset joining WECA (a) for Bristol, and (b) the wider West of England region?
b) What reassurances did the Mayor receive from Government/WECA regarding any new governance arrangements that would be needed to safeguard Bristol’s interests in an expanded Combined Authority?
c) What are the key challenges regarding WECA’s delivery and why should this be a factor when considering the expansion of the combined authority?
d) Next steps – should North Somerset wish to join the Combined Authority in the future what key factors should the residents of Bristol consider if asked in a public consultation? What would the Mayor seek to be included in any future deal with Government regarding WECA expansion?
The Director for Legal and Democratic Services presented a legal briefing published prior to the meeting providing an overview of the relevant legal framework. The decision to expand WECA would require the approval of a new governance scheme and amendment of the Constitution, which would in turn be subject to public consultation.
The provision for potential amendments was contained within Section 106 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, and would require consent from WECA members. The legislation did not require the process to coincide with WECA elections, although there would be practical reasons for this to be the case. There had been no discussions of delaying elections for this purpose, and an application for amendments could be made at another time.
It was clarified that WECA elections fall on a four-year cycle; due to the delay to local elections these would coincide in 2021.
The Chair asked the Mayor to present his considerations of why the devolution deal failed to progress. The Mayor explained that the terms of the funding available were very clear when the initial deal was first presented, but that Bristol City Council had raised issues around governance and delivery for some time. Ideally discussions around the devolution deal would have taken place from 2018 onwards, but did not appear as agenda items for discussion. The Mayor had raised concerns over both the future funding split and the mechanisms for safeguarding Bristol interests at an early juncture with WECA members and explained the agreements that would be necessary to continue, but discussions on these points failed to progress.
All relevant correspondence was published. Members noted that a review took place in July 2019, and asked why agreement was not reached at that point, also noting that there appeared to be difficulty in progression as the Minister required a governance scheme outline while the Chair of WECA maintained this could not be provided without a funding agreement. The Mayor agreed that a governance scheme outline should have been prioritised at this earlier point. The review at the time was specifically around project delivery.
Members asked for clarification over why Bristol City Council was not more proactive in leading expansion discussion. The Mayor’s view was that WECA membership, and any subsequent expansion, was not a goal in and of itself but a benefit due to the access it could provide to economic development opportunities. Therefore expansion was less of a priority than the delivery of the individual projects in which Bristol was involved.
A member expressed concern about the nature and format of the extraordinary meeting, and suggested that input from the other local authorities would have been more beneficial. The Chair stated that other local authorities were provided opportunities to comment, and that this meeting was arranged to consider the role of Bristol City Council only. The Mayor added that he had also had conversations with neighbouring authorities about the disclosure of correspondence to support transparency.
The Chief Executive provided some additional background that ... view the full minutes text for item 105.