Sunday, 19 July 2020

Yorkshire and Humber Green Party Response to the West Yorkshire Devolution Deal


Yorkshire and Humber Green Party Response to the West Yorkshire 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 2.3 million 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 proposed 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 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 £50k/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 document.

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.

If London can have the GLA why can’t West Yorkshire have an elected assembly?

It is not at all clear that powers will not be taken away from Councils and given to the Mayoral Combined Authority - the exact opposite of devolution.
It is our view, for Devolution to work in this area it needs to have a representational assembly elected by proportional representation to cover the whole Yorkshire region with similar powers to those of the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly. Yorkshire has a population somewhat greater than Scotland, and significantly larger that Wales. What’s good enough for Scotland & Wales is good enough for Yorkshire.

Specific Governance proposals

·       Allocation of places to be based on LGA Groups - Greens and Independent councillors would all fall under the LGA Independent Grouping rather than being treated as small parties or individuals.

·       There should be 4 balancing members on the Mayoral Combined Authority. This would create a more balanced authority giving 10 voting members. 4 balancing members would currently result in 2 Conservative, 1 Lib-Dem and 1 LGA Independent Group members.

·       Equal voting rights for all Mayoral Combined Authority members on all matters not reserved to the Mayor. The proposed structure creates 3 classes of voting member.  There is no justification for the Mayor and the balancing members to be excluded from key decisions, and there should be only 1 class of voting member on Combined Authority decisions.

·       In the absence of an Elected Assembly there should be all member assembly from the constituent councils for key decisions - As far as possible all elected members should be involved in the decisions that will shape and determine our shared future.

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 constituent Council

While we would welcome some of the potential powers that would be granted to the Elected Mayor in relation to Public Transport and access to funding, we believe that Government should simply devolve this funding and powers to the Local Authorities without requiring the establishment of a new undemocratic Mayoral Authority.

Transport funding should not be used to support higher carbon emissions

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. It might be noted that while WYCA have stated a target of 2038, Leeds City Council, via a motion of Council, set a target date of 2030 – We believe that within the boundary of Leeds the Elected Mayor, if brought in, should implement the Zero-Carbon economy by the 2030 date.


We would oppose the use of funding on any projects that would enable expansion at Leeds Bradford Airport by the Mayor and the Mayoral Combined Authority. Any such funding would be contrary to reaching Zero-Carbon.
We acknowledge that delivering a mass transit system has long been the plan for Leeds City Region, and aligns with the move towards becoming Zero Carbon. However, the need to progress at pace to achieve modal transport shifts in order for Leeds to reach its Zero Carbon target of 2030 may require the mass transit system ambition to be revisited. Funding is needed now to develop an effective and responsive bus system, the means for all transport to be Zero Carbon and to greatly increase active travel. Planning for low carbon transport is no longer good enough; travel needs to be Zero Carbon, and this must include ensuring that the electricity for electric vehicles is generated from renewable sources. We welcome the plans for improvements at Leeds city station as long as the modal shift is to Zero Carbon transport.

Question 3

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

Agree with some reservations

While we would argue that Adult Education – lifelong learning – is about more than those outcomes linked to employability and the minor extensions into Community Learning covered by the current AEB, the question asks only about the current system.

We are conscious that levels of participation in the Yorkshire & the Humber region in the forms of Adult Education covered by the AEB at 30%, are only just above the lowest level nationally (29% in the South West)

There is a concern about the unpredictability of funding levels, which have seen a 45% fall over the last ten years. Clearly if the mayoral region is to plan for provision in the long term it needs assurance that funding will reflect levels of commitment made and increase at the very least to cover the inflationary costs.

We are conscious that the administrative and procurement processes that have operated at a national level have shown great weaknesses that have undermined provider confidence. We would want to see devolution of the budget linked to the power to simplify rules, make required outcomes clearer and support provider confidence. The devolution of the budget has promise, but only if the administration can be simplified and made more transparent. If devolution is to mean anything it must include devolution of decision making about the outcomes wanted in the region.

The region as a whole, and the West Yorkshire region in particular have great potential in building the new green economic order that is needed. There is a strong skills base that can be built on in the provision of training, and this development should take place not just in the context of the 2038 Zero carbon Agenda target of the WYCA, but also reflect local commitments, such as those in Leeds to a 2030 target.

As such we would favour further devolution of the budget to the five constituent authorities of the sub-region and not just to the WY mayor, and for the opportunity for lifelong learning to become an offer that is available very locally, for example from community centres or schools.

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 do not support the granting of any land assembly or planning powers to the Elected Mayor, these should be held by the appropriate Local Authority, as those councillors have the local knowledge to be able to make these decisions. Clearly, it is our view if this function were to be granted to the Elected Mayor and, we note that the local authority will have a veto, we would like to put in the safeguard that any decision taken by the Elected Mayor in this area should have to be endorsed by both the Executive Board and a meeting of the full Council of that particular metropolitan authority.

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 the conclusions of the report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 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 appointment of a highly paid, unelected Deputy Mayor to lead on the Policing function, however, just makes matters worse.  It 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/or 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 and or ‘Party Worthy’.

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

A Devolution Deal for a Post-COVID/Post-Growth World

The proposed devolution deal was prepared in the pre-COVID world, and therefore it will need significant rethinking in order to align with the new normal that individuals, businesses, communities, councils, regions and nations are now preparing for. Recently 200 leading UK businesses, investors and business networks, called on the Government to deliver a Covid-19 recovery plan that builds back a more inclusive, stronger and more resilient UK economy that aligns with the UK's wider social, environmental and climate goals. There is no mention here of economic growth. More and more people with vision are realising that growing an economy is at odds with tackling climate change. What we can have instead is a strong, vibrant, inclusive and sustainable economy and that should be the vision that underpins the devolution deal. We have an opportunity here in West Yorkshire to be leaders in this new green recovery world.

In view of this, the metrics used for making the 5 year Gateway Assessments on which ongoing funding may depend cannot be based on economic growth, but on other measurements of a vibrant economy. In the new COVID 19 world economic growth may be a thing of the past anyway. In particular decisions must not be made in order to meet the Gateway Assessments that will reduce the capacity of Leeds to meet the Climate Emergency commitments.

Let’s have Real Devolution not Faux Devolution

In our view this is only partial devolution to, effectively, an elected dictatorship, and not a proper democratic body. The area covered, the County of West Yorkshire, is a failed concept of the early 1970’s and does not cover the economic footprint of the Leeds City Region. To have real devolution we need an Assembly and First Minister with powers similar to those granted to Wales, and Scotland, but based upon the region of Yorkshire. The proposal states that this agreement is the first step in the process to further devolution, therefore a Yorkshire Assembly should be seen as the assumed next step, which should be included in this devolution agreement. Devolution for Yorkshire has wide support, including in the Sheffield City Region where referendums held in Barnsley and Doncaster, indicated an overwhelming preference for a One Yorkshire deal over the South Yorkshire deal.

Devolution that acknowledges the Climate Crisis

On October 8 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report, in which they stated that ‘Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.’ Other parts of the report state that ‘With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society’. We are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes. The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.’ It is already widely acknowledged that the UK’s zero carbon target of 2050 will not achieve the limiting of global warming required, which is why councils around the UK have committed to achieve zero carbon much sooner.

So it is within the context of the Climate Emergency that West Yorkshire now has the opportunity, through devolution, to set truly ambitious plans to lead this country in a green economic recovery from the COVID pandemic, a recovery that will achieve the challenging but necessary zero carbon targets that have been set. This will require public support, and that can only be achieved through the democratic processes and structures that are outlined in our response.

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