(Councillors Atkinson, Biederman, Connett, Dewhirst, Greenslade and Hannaford attended in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and spoke to this item).
(Councillor Davis declared a personal interest in this matter by virtue of being a Member of the Joint Committee, appointed by Exmoor National Park).
(Councillor Dewhirst also declared a personal interest in this matter by virtue of being a substitute Member of the Joint Committee, appointed by Teignbridge District Council).
The Cabinet considered the Report of the Chief Executive (CX/19/01) which had been circulated prior to the meeting in accordance with regulation 7(4) of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012.
The Report provided an update for Constituent Authorities on the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Joint Committee’s governance arrangements and budgetary position for 2019/20 and contained recommendations for amendments to the Committee’s Arrangements document, following a governance review.
The Council had been a member of the Heart of the South West Joint Committee since its
creation in August 2015 and the Committee had become a formal body in March 2018 with currently twenty-one members. The Committee acted as a single voice to Government on socio-economic and environmental issues and made the case for additional powers and funding for the benefit of the people of Devon and Somerset.
In terms of the review of the role and functions of the Joint Committee, it had refined its focus into strategic policy development, influencing Government and key agencies to achieve direct intervention, support, funding and powers, designing and delivering strategic HotSW responses to ‘Government’ offers, designing and delivering public sector reform where this would deliver improved productivity, e.g. in health and education, delivering at scale (beyond what individual councils could achieve) and oversight of the delivery plan.
The refinements to the focus of the Committee had been reflected in amendments to the list of functions in the Joint Committee’s ‘Arrangements’ document, at Appendix A of the Report.
The Report also outlined that the Committee had agreed to change its meeting arrangements to achieve a better balance between formal decision-making meetings (fewer) and more opportunities for informal engagement and challenge sessions.
In January 2018, the Constituent Authorities had appointed Somerset County Council as the Administering Authority for a two-year period from 22 January 2018. The Report recommended a reappointment of Somerset County Council for a further two-years (until 22 January 2022), which had been endorsed by the Joint Committee.
The diagram in Appendix B to the Report showed the revised management support arrangements of the Joint Committee.
The Joint Committee remained reliant on the Constituent Authorities for its budget to support running costs and delivery of the work programme. Contribution levels for each Council tier were based on population levels. The Joint Committee approved ‘in principle’ to seek agreement from Constituent Authorities to double the 2018/19 core contributions as a one-year arrangement for 2019/20. For the County Council this meant a maximum of £21,000, but the additional monies would only be requested if the budget proved to be insufficient to fund the work required and only if fully costed work programme proposals were available.
The Cabinet noted that the Joint Committee had reviewed and updated its governance arrangements in the light of experience and in response to changing Government policy and local circumstances. It was essential the Joint Committee remained fit for purpose, represented a sustainable way of working into the future and delivered value for the resources committed to it by the Constituent Authorities.
The matter having been debated and the options and/or alternatives and other relevant factors (e.g. financial, sustainability (including carbon impact), risk management, equality and legal considerations and Public Health impact) set out in the Chief Executive’s Report and/or referred to above having been considered:
it was MOVED by Councillor Hart, SECONDED by Councillor McInnes, and
(a) that as a constituent member, Council be asked to approve the amendments (highlighted in italics) to the Heart of the South West Joint Committee’s list of functions in the Arrangements document – Appendix A attached and note the updated budget position for 2019/20;
(b) that as a constituent member, Council be asked to approve the recommendation from the Joint Committee on 27th September 2019, to re-appoint Somerset County Council as the Administering Authority for the Joint Committee; and
(c) that Council be asked to make provision of £21,000 as a contribution to the administration and work programme of the Committee in 2020/21 financial year subject to all other Constituent Members making a financial contribution based on the methodology agreed in previous years.