Agenda item

Response to Consultation on the proposed Devon and Torbay Devolution Deal

To consider the report of the Chief Executive.




The Leader presented the report on the Council’s response to the proposed Devon and Torbay Devolution Deal published by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities (DLUHC) and made the following points:-


·         the discussion around devolution had been going on for years;

·         the recommendation was to note the consultation;

·         the legislation was clear that district councils could not be constituent members of a CCA;

·         from a political point of view, some devolved powers would be handed back to local areas regardless of who won the next General Election;

·         in the event of a Labour victory at the General Election, a bespoke deal would be proposed to Exeter and Devon rather than the imposition of a Mayor;

·         the House of Lords had proposed amendments giving district councils voting rights within the CCA, but these were voted down by the Government;

·         £8 would be put aside towards the housing strategy;

·         on the issue of transport – of the utmost importance in Exeter-, it was disappointing that Plymouth City Council had opted not to be part of the CCA;

·         the deal presented was inevitable;

·         even without voting rights, the district councils would have a say in the CCA; and

·         Exeter City Council could have opted to take no part in any of the CCA’s structures, but it was essential that Exeter’s arguments could be put forward.


The Leader further advised that he had held constructive conversations with the other group leaders about the issue of the Business Advisory Committee, and it had been agreed that, in its report, the Council would be seeking to ensure that said committee, as well as a for-profit business representative, also featured:-


·         a not-for-profit business representative ( i.e. social enterprise); and

·         a voluntary and community sector representative.


Councillor M Mitchell, as co-Leader of the Progressive Group, was in agreement with the Leader but felt that:-


·         the transfer of certain powers from a lesser to a greater authority was contrary to the very idea of devolution;

·         decisions would be made that weren’t Exeter City Council’s priorities;

·         Exeter would essentially be a silent bystander to a higher-tier authority arrangement;

·         the money spent on setting up the CCA deal could have been put to better use;

·         each district Council within Devon had different needs and different demands; and

·         Exeter City Council must ensure that the CCA deal did not constitute the first step towards the creation of a unitary authority for Devon.


Councillor Moore, as co-Leader of the Progressive Group, made the following points:-

·         the CCA deal was a foregone conclusion;

·         Exeter City Council would inevitably be affected by the deal;

·         transport was indeed a priority for Exeter;

·         it was reassuring that the Devon and Torbay Devolution Deal appended to the report made reference to the environment and surprising that it used the term “climate emergency”; and

·         she welcomed the Leader’s decision to take on board her suggested amendments to the report but stressed the importance of ensuring that ECC’s representatives on the advisory boards scrutinised the CCA.


During debate, Members made the following comments:-

·         Devon was too complex and diverse to fall under a single unitary authority;

·         the district council model worked for Exeter;

·         the emphasis on housing was welcome, although the upper tier authorities needed to buy into the housing agenda;

·         the real issue was about resources;

·         the proposed deal was both uninspiring and undemocratic;

·         it was puzzling that, with similar-sized populations, Torbay had voting rights in the CCA while Exeter did not;

·         the LEP had failed and would be replaced by another failing body; and

·         there was a lack of accountability in the proposed governance of the CCA, as attested by the fact that there would be no direct election for seats on the CCA itself.


Councillor Wright, in seconding the recommendation, thanked the Leader for his work on this matter and, while she regretted the money already spent on setting up the CCA deal, she welcomed the fact that group leaders had come together to finesse the report, adding that, if the CCA deal did go ahead, Exeter City Council would more than ever need to speak as one voice.


In concluding, the Leader thanked Members for their contributions to the debate and re-affirmed many of the points made. He made the following further comments:-

·         he had been trying to build consensus with the Council’s group leaders as well as with the other district councils;

·         the Devolution deal needed to focus more on the needs of local residents;

·         there would be a democratic deficit if either costal, rural or urban areas were not adequately represented;

·         the deal did not constitute a Local Government reorganisation;

·         Exeter has strong convening role to play, specifically by using ‘soft’ powers of persuasion, for example for better bus services;

·         people in Exeter looked to the City Council before the County Council;

·         preserving the independence of Exeter City Council was paramount; and

·         Exeter City Council would use its influence to hold the CCA to account.


The Leader moved and Councillor Wright seconded the recommendation and following a vote, the recommendation was carried unanimously.


RESOLVED that Council note the proposed Devon and Torbay devolution deal and formation of the Devon and Torbay Combined County Authority and submits the response to the consultation as outlined in the report.


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