Sunday, 14 June 2020

DRAFT Yorkshire and Humber Green Party Response to WY Devolution Deal


DRAFT Yorkshire and Humber Green Party Response to WY Devolution Deal

Question 1

Do you agree or disagree with our proposals for the revised arrangements for the Combined Authority, as set out above and in the Scheme, in particular the proposed arrangements for a Mayor, Mayoral Combined  Authority, and the councils, working together?

Strongly Disagree

This is not real devolution.

The Elected Mayor does not represent real devolution. It is simply replacing a remote Westminster politican with a remote individual who is supposed to represent millions of people which they cannot. When mayoral models have been put before local people in referenda before they have rejected. Now it is proposed to impose a Mayor on West Yorkshire without a referendum.

The Mayoral Combined Authority – Some members are more equal than others

The proposed West Yorkshire Combined Authority will have 11 members. 5 of these members will most likely be the Leaders of the constituent Councils. These will be Councillors who have been elected by the unfair first past the post electoral system unlike the WYCA mayor. Having members of the same body elected by different electoral systems is bizarre and perverse. The 3 additional members will also be Councillors elected under the first past the post system but these places will be allocated on the basis of the number of Councillors in political groups on the constituent councils not on the basis of popular share of the vote. We believe that West Yorkshire should have an Assembly like the GLA in London elected by Proportional Representation. If it is good enough for London why not West Yorkshire?

The 3 additional constituent council members on the Mayoral Combined Authority appointed for political balance should be referred to as “Second Class Members” as their support is not required to pass the Mayor’s Spatial Development Strategy, the designation of land for a Mayoral Combined Authority Area, the compulsory purchase of land, decisions that could incur a financial liability on a constituent council or any matter pertaining to the Mayoral Combined Authority’s Constitution. Using the same logic the 5 members appointed by each constituent Council should be referred to as “Premier Class Members” as their support is required to approve the above matters.

All Councillors need to be represented on the Mayoral Combined Authority

Over 8% of elected Councillors in West Yorkshire are from parties other than Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats. All these Councillors are members of the LGA Independent Group. Current proposals would mean that these Councillors and the communities they represent would have no representation at all on the Mayoral Combined Authority. Provision should be made on the board to represent all groupings represented by LGA Political Groups including the LGA Independent Group which consists of Independent and Green Party Councillors. We propose an additional member for political balance to ensure Councillors who are members of the LGA Independent Group, and therefore the people who vote for them, are represented.

The proposals for 2 Deputy Mayors are undemocratic

The proposal for the Mayor to be able to simply appoint a 2 Paid Deputies is undemocratic and will most likely be given to ‘Party worthies’ as a form of patronage. If it follows the model of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner the Deputy Mayors positions will attract an allowance of at least £50’000/year with no democratic mandate. The Leader of Kirklees Council has stated at a Kirklees Scrutiny meeting that a Deputy Mayor position will be taken by a Leader of one of the Constituent Councils. There is no reference to this in the Governance Review.

Mayoral Compulsory Purchase and Development Area powers should need approval of a meeting of the constituent Full Council

The Mayor will have the power to compulsory purchase land within each Combined Authority area and set up Mayoral Development areas. Before any of these powers are put into effect they should require the approval of a vote in Full Council in the constituent Council affected.

As with the Compulsory Purchase powers we strongly believe that proposals to establish a Mayoral Development area should also require Full Council approval.

 Question 2

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer transport functions and new transport related functions to a West Yorkshire Mayor and mayoral combined authority?

Disagree

Additional Transport funding should simply be passed down to each Constitutent Council

Government should simply devolve the additional funding for transport related functions to Local Authorities anyway without requiring the establishment of a new undemocratic Mayoral Authority.

Transport funding should not be used to support higher carbon emissions

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority is currently proposing the use of funding for transport functions to support the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport. This is inconsistent with the Zero Carbon Agenda the Authority is currently signed up to. We would need a commitment from the Mayoral Combined Authority to not fund transport projects that increase carbon emissions when we should be reducing them.  

The Key Route Network proposed could involve the establishment of new roads encouraging car use and destroying valued green corridors. This would also be inconsistent with WYCA’s commitment to have a zero carbon economy by 2038.

 Question 3

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer skills and employment functions to a West Yorkshire mayoral combined authority?

Neither agree nor disagree

The important thing to recognise here is that this is not new money and the Mayoral Combined Authority will have no control over the amount of money invested in West Yorkshire for skills and employment functions.

We strongly believe that the funding that is passed down from central government should play a key role in supporting the skills needed for the Zero Carbon Economy Agenda.

Question 4

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer housing and planning functions to a West Yorkshire Mayor and mayoral combined authority?

Disagree

Planning decisions should be taken at a local level

We believe that planning decisions are best taken at a local level not by a remote Mayoral Combined Authority and as such we would want any planning decisions to require the support of the Planning Authority of the relevant constituent Council and be put before them for debate and decision.

The Mayoral Combined Authority should be able to suspend the ‘Right to Buy’

One function we would like devolved to a local level is the power to suspend the Right to Buy scheme. We have seen a massive reduction in Council Housing at a time of high demand for income particularly for the millions left behind in the policy push over the last 40 years towards home ownership. Not everybody can own a home and we need a secure affordable option for the millions who cannot.  Suspending or preferably abolishing the Right to Buy would boost the business case for Councils wanting to build new affordable homes.

The power we need is to insist on higher energy efficiency standards for buildings

The Mayor will not have powers to insist on higher building standards in the region such as Passivhaus for all new build. This would be compatible with WYCA’s stated commitment to a Zero Carbon Economy by 2038 but is a power that we won’t have.

We need a 2030 Target for the West Yorkshire Zero Carbon Economy

We strongly believe that the Mayoral Combined Authority should set a new, more ambitious target for a Zero Carbon Economy by 2030 in line with report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Repor . This would help support our argument for stronger housing and planning policies either at the local or regional level.

Question 5

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer Police and Crime Commissioner functions to a West Yorkshire Mayor?

Strongly oppose

Police and Crime functions are even more unaccountable under the Mayoral Combined Authority.

The abolition of the Police and Crime Commissioner role is a positive in that it is a role that has not excited interested the electorate and takes away from rather than adds to local democratic accountability of the Police. The appointment of a highly paid unelected Deputy Mayor to lead on the Policing function however just makes matters worse and will undoubtedly put an unelected politician in a role where the people scrutinising them will have a democratic mandate (albeit through FPTP) but they will not.

 Question 6

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer additional finance functions on a West Yorkshire Mayor and mayoral combined authority?

Strongly oppose

No taxation without adequate representation and scrutiny.

Our opposition to these additional powers is due to the lack of a suitable democratic mandate as we have detailed in our answer to question 1 and the lack of suitable scrutiny and powers to limit the powers of the Mayor by a democratically elected Assembly.

The power to charge a precept for policing would mean that the funding gained could be the responsibility of an unelected functionary.

Question 7

Are there any comments you would like to make that you do not feel you have addressed in your response?

What about the challenge of Climate Change?

The West Yorkshire Authorities Governance Review document highlights the major challenges to the sub region. It includes growth, productivity, diversity, innovation and trade but Climate Change is not identified as a challenge bizarrely. The self-declared target of having a Zero Carbon Economy in just 18 years time is a significant challenge but it is concerning that it has not been included here. For the record the Green Party believes that our target should be 2030 not 2038 in line with the evidence from climate scientists.

What about a resilient economy?

Another significant challenge highlighted by the COVID19 crisis is the need for a resilient economy that is less affected by global factors such as international trade, the money markets and financial speculation.

A more resilient economy would have an emphasis on local production for local need, more locally owned and managed businesses trading with each other ensuring money remains within the regional economy. This is not identified as a significant challenge and therefore cannot be regarded as a priority by the Mayoral Combined Authority. This is a major weakness in the Governance Review Document

 

 


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