To consider establishing a Joint Committee with Barrow Borough and Lancaster City Councils covering all respective administrative areas to promote the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the areas.
The Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder presented the report which referred to the fact that, in 2017, Barrow Borough Council, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council had approved a joint statement of intent to work collaboratively to drive forward agreed approaches to economic development across the Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region. This statement had been rooted in the findings of 2016 economic study work which had confirmed the region as a functioning economic area with a combined Gross Value Added comparable to other major North West economic centres. Strengths had been identified in the sectors of marine engineering, energy generation, nuclear skills, advanced manufacturing and higher education. The conclusion had been that development opportunities could be better identified and realised working strategically across administrative boundaries.
In June 2019, the three authorities had produced and launched a prospectus ‘Driving Growth Together’ at an event at Lancaster University, attended by a wide range of businesses, agencies, authorities and media from across the region. The prospectus and approach to collaborative working had been well received. The authorities had subsequently produced an outline proposal for a growth deal, and had presented it to the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse ahead of the Convention of the North, held in September 2019. This collaborative approach had successfully raised the profile of the region amongst the Northern Powerhouse, Ministers and local MPs and had outlined potential investments in infrastructure, the business environment and place.
Work was currently taking place to refine and focus proposals for a growth deal type programme to attract significant public investment to transformational growth projects and importantly drive COVID-19 resilience to the region’s economy. This required a strong case, backed by demonstrable collaborative action, supported by visible commitment and accountability. As such, it was considered beneficial to establish a formal arrangement between the three councils to drive this, reinforcing the sense of developing a functional economic area. The proposal was to establish the Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Prosperity Board. This would be established as a Joint Committee, using powers under the Local Government Acts 1972 and 2000 and under the Local Authorities (Arrangement for the Discharge of Functions) (England) Regulations 2012. The proposed Joint Committee’s Procedure Rules were presented in Appendix 1 to the report. The Joint Committee’s remit would be to provide political and democratic accountability. Membership would comprise two members from each constituent authority. The joint committee would be able to co-opt members or non-authority members up to a maximum of three. If a member was co-opted ,this would need to be a Cabinet member under the 2012 Regulations. Each of the constituent authorities would rotate the hosting of the joint committee. Initially, Lancaster City Council would host the Joint Committee. Meetings would be no less than quarterly in frequency. The joint committee would not hold funds or monies on behalf of the constituent authorities.
The approach utilised existing powers available to the constituent authorities and was considered to be an optimal means of achieving greater focus and political and democratic accountability to the joint endeavours of the councils to promote development and strengthened resilience of the region’s economy, social and environmental wellbeing.
It was proposed that the Terms of Reference would be reviewed at the first meeting of the Joint Committee with any changes brought back to a future meeting.
Following a comment on the importance of linking the area and the need to include the eastern side of the M6 around the border between South Lakeland and Lancaster, the Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder agreed with the need to develop the larger M6 corridor.
In response to a query, the Director of Strategy, Innovation and Resources and the Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) explained that the agendas and minutes for the meetings of the Joint Committee would be published on the Council’s Website in the normal manner in accordance with legislative requirements, with the meeting dates being included in the Council’s Calendar of Meetings.
The Economy, Culture and Leisure Portfolio Holder pointed out that this was a functioning effective economic area and was pleased to see broad, cross-party support.
A vote was taken on the proposals during which all Cabinet Members confirmed that they had, without interruption, heard the full presentation and discussion on the item.
RESOLVED - That
(1) a Joint Committee with Barrow Borough and Lancaster City Councils be established covering all respective administrative areas to promote the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the areas;
(2) the Executive Functions within the Terms of Reference, adopting the Procedure Rules as attached in Appendix 1 and outlined in the report, be delegated to the Joint Committee;
(3) Lancaster City Council act as the initial host authority for one year;
(4) appoint the Leader and the Portfolio Holder for Economy, Culture and Leisure be appointed to the Joint Committee; and
(5) Council be requested to authorise the Council’s Monitoring Officer to make all necessary constitutional amendments to the Council’s Constitution and to update the Council’s Scheme of Delegation in Part 3 of the Constitution.
Reasons for Decision
The decision directly supports the Council’s priority of working across boundaries to deliver economic growth.
Specific contribution is made to the following Council Plan outcomes:-
• working across Morecambe Bay and the North West to secure inward investment;
• attracting external funding and delivering critical infrastructure;
• working collaboratively on our climate emergency priorities, policy and action plan;
• participating in the Northern Powerhouse and contributing to the preparation and implementation of the Local Industrial Strategy;
• promoting unique selling points such as marine and cultural and creative industries;
• intervening to deliver major sites and critical infrastructure and remove barriers to delivery;
• working with partners to deliver critical transport and other infrastructure;
• supporting delivery in neighbouring authorities;
• attracting new delivery partners; and
• using our distinctive environment to create opportunities for all.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
The constituent authorities could continue with an informal collaboration. This option is not recommended as the requirements and options for promoting growth and investment proposals to Government and local partners will be strengthened if backed by demonstrable joint commitment a formal arrangements represents. The existing informal collaboration is not open to political and democratic scrutiny other than individually through each of the constituent authorities.
The constituent authorities could consider establishing an Economic Prosperity Board through an alternative legislative route provided by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 and the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. This option would establish the Board as a corporate body, however this option is reliant on securing secretary of state consent. This takes the creation of a formal joint arrangement beyond the control of the constituent authorities. The Joint Committee could be separate from the Board or develop into this in due course. Whilst this may be an option at a further date, it is considered the Joint Committee route provides an appropriate formal arrangement at this time. As such this option is not recommended.