What area does the West of England devolution deal cover?
The West of England devolution deal covers the geographic area made up of the three local councils of Bristol City, Bath & North East Somerset, and South Gloucestershire.
What are the key terms of the deal?
- £900 million of investment to deliver infrastructure to boost economic growth. Government will provide £30m a year for funding towards this fund over a 30-year period. Other financial benefits include the opportunity to take part in the business rates retention pilot and higher rate of payments from Government across the devolution region for roads maintenance, worth approximately £1m per annum.
- Devolution of multi-year transport budgets, enabling the area to deliver transport projects with greater certainty that the funds are in place. This will be coupled with further powers over transport, including responsibility for a Key Route Network of selected local roads.
- Responsibility for the Adult Education Budget, fully devolved to the combined authority, helping the West of England ensure that adult skills provision meets the needs of local businesses and learners.
- Enhanced powers to speed up the delivery of new housing in line with the Joint Spatial Plan and resist unsustainable developments that are not in line with jointly agreed planning policies.
- Working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to design a new Work and Health Programme to support people with a health condition or disability and the very long-term unemployed. The West of England would also bring forward a pilot scheme to offer intensive support for those furthest from the labour market.
These are devolved powers and resources that are currently held by Government, such as devolution of transport budgets with a multi-year settlement, responsibility for adult education budgets, enhanced powers to support the delivery of housing.
Each of the three Councils retain their independence as Unitary Authorities and retain their duties to deliver frontline services to their residents.
Why has the West of England been offered this deal?
The Government recognises that this is a very successful area. As a Core-City Region, the West of England is unique outside of London as being a net contributor to the UK economy. The West of England devolution deal aims to build on this success and deliver more growth for the local and national economy.
It will help us to deliver the priority schemes of an ambitious programme of economic infrastructure and to influence the future planned development.
Spending will be increased for major projects, including transport, housing and employment, as well as skills and learning to help secure and improve our position, helping the West of England remain one of the most economically prosperous in the country.
Have local people had their say on this?
Public consultation on the proposed governance arrangements for the West of England was carried out over a six week period between 4 July and 15 August 2016.
2,011 individual residents, businesses, voluntary and community organisations participated in a survey. A further 14 organisations and individuals provided a response by email. The majority of respondents (55%) expressed support for a Mayoral Combined Authority and proposals on decision-making, place, people and business.
What happens to North Somerset, which is in the West of England and part of the Joint Spatial Plan, but not part of the devolution deal?
The West of England Combined Authority will continue to work closely with North Somerset. We have a legacy of successful joint working between the four authorities.
The Leaders have negotiated a delay to the West of England Combined Authority’s planning powers in order to allow for the progression of the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP). The Authorities are committed to taking the JSP through to Examination in Public and adoption as the statutory Spatial Plan for the West of England. The Mayor will have a duty to deliver a Combined Authority Spatial Plan, commencing this process after May 2018. This is expected to be informed by the JSP.
What is a Mayoral Combined Authority and who will sit on it?
A Mayoral Combined Authority is a legal body that can make decisions at West of England level. It will have the ability to receive devolved powers and resources.
The West of England Combined Authority will have four members. These will be the Mayor of Bristol, the Leaders of Bath & North East Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council and the Mayor of the West of England.
The Mayor of the West of England, Tim Bowles, has been directly elected and chairs the Combined Authority.
How will decisions be made by the West of England Mayor and Combined Authority?
The West of England Mayor will have one vote as will other voting members.
Any questions to be decided by the West of England Combined Authority will be decided by a majority of the members, subject to that majority including the vote of the West of England Mayor, unless otherwise set out in legislation.
Decisions on the Combined Authority Spatial Plan will require unanimous agreement.
How will we make sure local people benefit?
The West of England is committed to the delivery of high quality, planned, sustainable growth. This includes powers to our area to improve the delivery of much-needed housing.
We will seek sustainable economic growth to benefit all residents, and ensure we have a skilled workforce that meets the needs of business.
The Government has agreed to continue to develop and deliver, in collaboration with the West of England Combined Authoritya programme to drive commercial rollout of superfast broadband, particularly in rural areas.
Who decides which schemes are to be funded by the deal?
The West of England Combined Authority will decide which schemes are to be funded. This decision will be based on both economic growth and sustainable development principles.
Many schemes will have already been identified as part of the Joint Spatial Plan and Joint Transport Plan processes.
Do we have to have a West of England Mayor?
The Government’s devolution offer is conditional on having a West of England Mayor and this will be confirmed by the Parliamentary Order.
The West of England Mayor will oversee West of England devolution schemes with funding direct from Government – such as devolved transport budgets, adult education, strategic planning.
The West of England Mayor will be held to account by the West of England Overview & Scrutiny committee.
What is the difference between the West of England Mayor, the Bristol Mayor and the Lord Mayor, and why do we need them all?
The West of England Mayor is a condition of the Government’s devolution offer. Sometimes referred to in the media as a ‘Metro Mayor’, he or she is a local government executive leader, directly elected by the local voting public. The West of England Mayor will be responsible for the West of England Combined Authority
The Government wants to have a named individual accountable for the additional powers and money being devolved to the West of England Combined Authority.
Bristol also has a directly elected Mayor, who is also a local government executive leader. The Mayor of Bristol is responsible for the area covered by Bristol City Council. The other two WECA councils, B&NES and South Gloucestershire currently have Council Leaders responsible for their council areas.
There are also Civic Mayors in Bath and in towns across the area (such as Midsomer Norton) – their role is ceremonial and they perform a similar function to chairs of parish and town councils. A Lord Mayor is a civic or ceremonial leader, usually elected by the local council. He or she has no decision-making powers.
How much will the new Mayor be paid?
An independent remuneration panel recommended an allowance of £62,000 per annum.
How will the West of England Mayor’s powers differ from those of the Bristol Mayor, South Glos and BANES leaders?
The West of England Mayor will work together with the Bristol Mayor, South Glos and B&NES leaders to create a strategy for the wider area.
The three local authorities will still be responsible for most public service delivery (such as waste management, schools, and recreational facilities). The West of England Mayor will focus on wider issues that span across the city region, such as transport, skills, housing and economic growth.
What checks and scrutiny will the West of England Mayor be subject to?
The 2016 Devolution Bill requires all combined authorities to set up at least one overview and scrutiny committee. This will be politically proportionate.
The committee will have the power to suspend decisions put forward by the West of England mayor and combined authority cabinet.
How long will the Mayor’s term run for?
The Mayor’s term will run for four years. For the first term, this means from 2017-2021.