Agenda item

Devon and Torbay Devolution Offer

Report by Chief Executive (attached).


Council considered a report by the Chief Executive (circulated previously) regarding the Devon and Torbay Devolution Offer.


Keri Denton, Head of Economy, Enterprise and Skills, of Devon County Council joined the meeting virtually.  She advised that discussions had been ongoing for some time in relation to providing additional powers. Central Government had now published the provision for the creation of County Combined Authorities and for the devolution of powers to those authorities as part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023.  The offer for Devon and Torbay was now out for public consultation and District Councils were invited to comment alongside local businesses and residents. It was recognised that this offer may lead to other discussions about further devolution in the future. The proposal would include the devolution of the adult education budgets which was currently held centrally by Devon and Torbay.  This would include co-designing with education and training providers, benefit from funding for free courses for jobs and longer term co-design skills programme. Housing would remain with District Councils. The proposal would be to work collaboratively to deliver investment in affordable housing schemes for local people and work direct with Homes England. Devon and Torbay would strengthen their joined up approach as equal partners to improve transport and request that their powers are devolved. To meet net zero ambitions, it was proposed there would be more investment in green business growth and attracting inwards investment. The next stage would be to develop a business case for the allocation of the £16m for new capital funding to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).  There would be direct engagement with the Government and other Government Departments. In addition to the Combined County Authority (CCA) and Team Devon Joint Committees, there would be number of advisory boards established in relation to employment, housing and Net Zero. These advising boards would be developed by building on existing arrangements that were already in place. Following the conclusion of the consultation, the legal arrangements with Government would commence and there would be opportunity to work with District Councils and other stakeholders on the design of the CCA to ensure that it met the needs of everyone.


It was moved by Councillor C Leaver and seconded by Councillor Roome “that the formulation of a consultation response to the Devon and Torbay Devolution proposal on behalf of the Council be referred to the Strategy and Resources Committee on 4 March 2024”.


Council requested that Councillors forward any concerns on the proposal by emailing the Senior Corporate and Community Services Officer to enable these to be considered by the Strategy and Resources Committee. It was noted that any Councillor could attend the meeting of the Committee.


An amendment was moved by Councillor Bushell and seconded by Councillor Maddocks “that Strategy and Resources Committee be requested to formulate ideas and that an extraordinary meeting of Council be arranged to enable all Councillors to have a vote on the formulation of a response to the consultation on the Devon and Torbay Devolution proposal”.


In response to the debate, the Chief Executive advised the following:


·       Responses to the consultation had great value and would be taken into consideration when the governance and constitution arrangements were being shaped by Devon and Torbay Councils.

·       Homelessness function would remain with Council and would not be transferred over to a new CCA.

·       The only existing powers that would be transferred to the new CCA were in relation to transport.  The other powers were new powers and functions devolved from Government.

·       The proposed CCA would give the Council a more local voice and a much stronger say when making representations to the Government which was a tangible benefit for the Council.

·       A mayor would not be appointed.  The mayoral option provided for the most extensive powers devolved from Government.

·       If a new CCA was not established, the new powers would not be devolved from Government as they would not be devolved to District or County Councils.


In response to the debate, the Head of Economy, Enterprise and Skills, of Devon County Council advised the following:


·       The Councils would each appoint three members to the CCA. There would be a rotation of the appointment of Chair of the CCA.  The Chair would not have a casting vote.

·       It was anticipated that the shaping of the governance and constitution arrangements would provide further reassurance to address Members concerns.

·       The membership of the proposed Housing Advisory Board could be the same as the existing task force and chaired by a representative from a District Council.  District Councils would retain their housing functions and powers.  The CCA would not affect the District Council’s existing relationship with Homes England.  The CCA would work at a national level as a unified voice and provide an opportunity to engage with the Government.

·       The £16m from the Shared Prosperity Fund was for new capital funding to support housing and net zero priorities. It was a one off fund and could not be used for setting up governance arrangements. An amount of £1m would be provided over a period of three years to set up the mobilisation of the CCA. It was intended although the CCA was a separate corporate body, resources would be shared by the upper tier authorities and also District Councils if they wished to do so. The sharing of resources would also minimise costs to tax payers.

·       Responses to the consultation would be listened to. A summary of the responses received together with Devon County Council and Torbay Councils responses would be presented to the Government and would be in public domain for openness and transparency.

·       The principle of setting up the CCA was to add value and to not duplicate.

·       The consultation period ended on 24 March 2024. There would then be a three week period for consideration of the consultation responses and formulation of a summary document.  The outcomes of the consultation would be presented to Devon County Council’s Cabinet and Torbay Council’s Cabinet for consider whether to accept the offer or not. The decision to accept the statutory instrument would be a delegated decision. It would then be submitted to Government with the anticipation that it would then start before the summer recess commenced on 24 July 2024 and then proceed to the House of Lords in September.   It was anticipated that the CCA would then be established in October/November 2024.

·       60% of the population of England would be covered by a devolution arrangement.


The amendment was put to the vote and was lost.


The motion was put to the vote and carried.


RESOLVED that the formulation of a consultation response to the Devon and Torbay Devolution proposal on behalf of the Council be referred to the Strategy and Resources Committee on 4 March 2024.

Supporting documents: