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 has strong economic growth and is home to flourishing businesses and a highly skilled workforce. 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.
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 councils.
What is the West of England Combined Authority ?
The Combined Authority is a legal body that can make decisions at West of England level. It has the ability to receive devolved powers and resources.
The West of England Combined Authority became operational in February 2017 and has four members: they are 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, was directly elected in May 2017 and chairs the Combined Authority.
How will decisions be made by the West of England Mayor and Combined Authority?
The West of England Mayor has one vote and so do the 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.
Who decides which schemes will be funded?
The West of England Combined Authority decides which schemes will be funded. Decisions will be based on both economic growth and sustainable development principles.
How does the West of England Mayor’s powers differ from those of the Bristol Mayor, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset leaders?
The West of England Mayor works together with the Bristol Mayor and the leaders of South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset to create a strategy for the wider area.
The three local authorities are still responsible for most public service delivery (such as waste management, schools, and recreational facilities). The West of England Mayor focuses on wider issues that span across the region, such as transport, skills, housing and economic growth.
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.
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 Government wants to have a named individual accountable for the additional powers and money being devolved to the West of England Combined Authority. 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 is responsible for the West of England Combined Authority.
Bristol 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, Bath & North East Somerset 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 does the Mayor get paid?
An independent remuneration panel recommended an allowance of £62,000 per annum.
What checks and scrutiny are the West of England Mayor subject to?
The 2016 Devolution Bill requires all combined authorities to set up at least one overview and scrutiny committee.
WECA scrutiny committee is made up of members from the constituent members of the Combined Authority – Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol City and South Gloucestershire councils. The committee has the power to suspend decisions put forward by the West of England Mayor and combined authority cabinet.
The scrutiny committee members are selected on a politically-proportionate basis, based on population.
WECA continues to work closely with North Somerset Council, building on a legacy of successful joint working between the four authorities. North Somerset will send along representatives to meetings to comment on items that affect them, but will not be full voting members of the WECA scrutiny committee.