Questions and answers
There are two devolution bids for the North East and two Combined Authorities – why not just have one?
The Tees Valley has a distinct and unique economy and the success of our partnership working through Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU) has proved that specialised work is required for our economic development. It makes sense therefore to build on our success and put forward our proposals for the Tees Valley area as five local authorities. We will still be working closely with our colleagues in the North East on many issues.
What are the negotiations that have been taking place?
We have been in intensive negotiations with Government since the submission of our Tees Valley Powerhouse Plan on 4 September. Clearly the deal is a two-way process, and the Government has pressed us hard on what they will get for the £450m extra funding they are putting into the area. We believe that this is the best deal we could get for Tees Valley, not only in terms of extra money but also on the scope of powers that are being devolved.
Will the Tees Valley have an elected Mayor?
Under the draft Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill there is a requirement for a directly elected Mayor to work alongside local authority leaders to oversee powers devolved from ministers. However, under the set-up, individual councils will retain their Council Leader/Elected Mayor who will still lead on the many service areas not affected by devolution.
How will the Mayor work with Leaders?
The Mayor will be a member of the Combined Authority along with the leaders of the individual authorities, and we expect that the Mayor will chair the Combined Authority. The Combined Authority will work on the basis of consensus but where necessary there will be majority voting.
Will we have an interim Mayor?
There are no plans for an interim mayor.
Will we be able to have a referendum on whether we want a Mayor or not?
No, there is a requirement under devolution legislation to have an elected Mayor.
What happens if the devolution deal is not agreed by all the local authorities?
The devolution deal would not continue to the next stage of implementation but that the councils would continue their plans for a Combined Authority.
Some other areas are taking on responsibility for the Police and Crime Commissioner and Health Services. Would you look at this in the future?
This isn’t part of our current deal, although further powers may be agreed over time and included in future legislation.
What does devolution mean in practical terms?
The Tees Valley Powerhouse Plan aims to bring more new jobs to the area, at a quicker pace, across a range of industries and ensure that local people have the skills to take up these new jobs. There is now national recognition of the need for improvements in our road and rail links. Better school attainment for our young people and our schools and colleges will equip pupils with better skills training so they have the qualifications they need to thrive in the modern world and there would be more apprentice opportunities for those starting off in their careers. It would also the area to enhance its cultural facilities and increase tourism.
The Plan will generate support to help increase productivity and economic competitiveness on a national and international stage. It will support our businesses to grow, to increase exports and to build further on our unique strengths in green energy, chemicals and innovation. We will improve our access to finance as well as creating a more skilled workforce through more apprenticeships and better training.
Where is the guarantee that the deal will be in place for the 30 years?
The deal is a legal document so we have that security. The 30 year period is common to all of the devolution deals so far.
What difference will devolution make to the steel industry in the Tees Valley?
What has happened with SSI will have a significant long term effect on both the people and the economy of the Tees Valley. While there is not a direct effect of devolution on the steel industry, there is a specific point in the deal about the Government working with the Tees Valley Combined Authority in the future to mitigate the effect of significant industrial closures on the local economy. Part of this will involve developing a plan to help our economy recover.
What happens next?
All the five local authority Leaders and Mayor are signed up to the deal in principle, but it is subject to formal consent by each council. Meetings will take place shortly. The target date for having an elected Mayor and devolving the powers is May 2017.
What is the difference between the Combined Authority and devolution?
The Combined Authority and devolution are not the same thing. A Combined Authority is a statutory body created to formalise joint working and decision-making between councils to accelerate economic growth. Devolution is a process that transfers powers from central government to a sub-regional body so that local factors are better recognised in decision-making.
Would the Combined Authority be a return to the old Cleveland County Council?
No. The Combined Authority is not a ‘super-council’ or another version of Cleveland County Council - the five Tees Valley Councils will continue to exist in their own right delivering local services but unite as a formal Tees Valley Combined Authority to focus on economic development, transport, infrastructure and skills. This work is currently carried out by the Local Enterprise Partnership, Tees Valley Unlimited, which works successfully in partnership with businesses. Meetings of the Combined Authority and the LEP would be held jointly to ensure a consistent link with business.
Will having a Combined Authority cost any more?
The five local authorities already jointly fund Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU), which works on behalf of the whole Tees Valley. The structure that is being developed for the Combined Authority is similar to the existing structure of TVU We are required to have some additional functions in a Combined Authority to meet legislative requirements (for example a Section 151 Officer, for financial purposes) but we already have such functions and responsibilities in local authorities now so we will work to share these with the Combined Authority where we can at little or no extra cost. We expect any additional running costs to be absolutely minimal compared to the huge financial benefits we could gain from having a Combined Authority.
What will the benefits be to the Tees Valley of having a Combined Authority?
The Combined Authority would be able to make decisions on strategic transport and infrastructure, employment and skills, economic development, business investment and low carbon at a Tees Valley level, with the local authorities and private sector being represented in the decision making process. A Combined Authority would also strengthen partnership working and would increase funding from central government that we can control locally here in the Tees Valley.
What happens next?
The Combined Authority the Government will carry out its own consultation in Autumn and there will be a Government vote on the Combined Authority early next year. We expect the Combined Authority to start business on 1st April 2016.