Monday, 30 January 2017

Local Government Boundary Commission for England: Visit to Cornwall 6th Feb.

My letter to the Boundary Commission prior to their visit on 6th February.
Attention Mr J Jackson and Mr C Mellors
Dear Sirs,
I understand that you will be visiting Cornwall Council on 6th February to review progress of the Council's work on making a final recommendation to the Commission for the number of councillors for 2021.
I apologise that I am not able to attend the meeting with you as I have a long standing prior engagement.
I am a signatory to the Conservative group submission to the Commission but I hope you will not mind me updating my views in the light of subsequent developments.
There is clearly no magic number which is just right. However, to meet your timetable, it is most important (after approximately 50 meetings/workshops/events) to make a decision and move on to the next stage of agreeing the new boundaries.
In view of the evidence previously submitted and the subsequent evidence received from the Cornwall Association of Local Councils (who recommended 85 to 95), I would support 85. This is the number proposed by my group at the meeting of the Council on 24th January but the Chairman decided not to debate it pending further work by the Electoral Review Panel.
It represents a significant reduction but is clearly sufficient to populate the various committees that would be needed. There have been at least two iterations of these committees tabled by officers and these could be refined.  
Further, the Constitution and Governance Committee is now recommending to the Council that the number of committees involved in policy development and scrutiny be reduced from 11 to 5 (reducing the Committee positions involved from 115 to 75).
85 is not the lowest number that could be made to work but it is the lowest number that the current administration have been prepared to consider.
I appreciate very much the difficulties for members, particularly those with large rural divisions: less councillors would mean more work, no matter what any 'role profile' may say. This is an elected role and not one where we can effectively reject work on technical grounds and nor would many of us wish to. Further, new technology can create work as well as save it.
However, fundamentally, the Council needs to be an effective decision making body in order to provide visible and accountable leadership for Cornwall and there are currently too many members to achieve this.
Interestingly a councillor remarked at one of the recent meetings on this subject that we don't need a mayor but we need a mayor's office. He elaborated that people need to know where to go to get answers.
This Boundary/Governance review alone shows that there is almost no relationship between time expended by members and effectiveness in decision making.
85 is the recommendation on the basis that we are seeking to work with your timetable. However, I think that you should be aware of the work of the Cornwall Executive Group (senior management from many of the key bodies working in or with the public sector in Cornwall) ('CEG').

 The Council agreed that CEG would be involved in establishing a Leadership Board for Cornwall (to include the Leader of the Council and representatives of partner organisations). This was a proposal that came from the Governance and Constitution External Group when it rejected, on balance, a mayoral model.

However, CEG has formed the view that the Leadership Board will not meet the Government's wish to have visible and accountable leadership and there is a risk that Cornwall will miss out on more power and more Government money  (as compared with areas which have mayors).

It has reported its view to the Constitution and Governance Committee and has indicated that it is now considering whether it can come up with an alternative suitable governance structure.

This could involve the creation of area boards for east, central and west Cornwall, the creation of leaders for those areas, a combined authority with the Isles of Scilly (with the existing unitary councils becoming the delivery arms), the creation of locality and strategic councillors and so on (see item 5Constitution and Governance Committee agenda 26th January).

The concern they express is that 'We have to ensure that we have the right governance model to ensure that we do not get put to the back of the queue, as then we are not serving the people of Cornwall'.

Yours sincerely 
Fiona Ferguson CC 
Truro Trehaverne

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