To consider a report on the work required to consider and submit a proposal for a single tier of local government.
Note - The Constitution stated that the call-in procedure should not apply where a decision being taken by the Cabinet was urgent and any delay likely to be caused by the call-in process would, for example, seriously prejudice the Council’s or the public’s interests. In accordance with paragraph 16(j) of the Constitution, the Chairman of the Council had been consulted and had agreed that the decision proposed was reasonable in all the circumstances and for it to be treated as a matter of urgency and that the call-in process should be waived.
The Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder presented a report seeking additional funding to support the work required to consider and submit a proposal to Government for a single tier of local government.
Council, on 6 October 2020, had approved exploring Local Government Reform and devolution, including the development of a high level case for a new Unitary Council for the area comprising Barrow Borough, Lancaster City and South Lakeland councils. It had also been noted that the Secretary of State may then invite the Council to put forward a formal proposal which would be subject to future agreement.
Prior to consideration of a high level case, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in exercise of his powers under Part 1 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, had now invited any principal authority in the area of the county of Cumbria to submit a proposal for a single tier of local government, in accordance with the following criteria:-
· by 9 November 2020, authorities must at least submit an outline proposal, and if a full proposal had not been submitted by that date, the full proposal must be submitted as soon as practicable thereafter and by no later than 9 December 2020;
· authorities must have regard to the guidance from the Secretary of State; and
· an authority may either make its own proposal or make a proposal jointly.
In exploring devolution around the Bay area, Barrow, Lancaster and South Lakeland Councils had started work to prepare a high level case. This work would be considered in terms of the Outline Proposal required to meet the guidance set out by the Secretary of State in responding to an invitation to make a proposal. If the Outline Proposal was approved for submission, work would continue in developing a Full Proposal for consideration by Cabinet and Council prior to the submission deadline of 9 December 2020.
The three Councils were equally sharing the costs of developing the proposal. Additional resources would be required to support this and extra funds of £65,000 were requested to be set aside from existing budgets (GTH Other Items budget) to help develop the proposal for submission.
A decision on whether to submit a proposal would be presented to a future meeting of the Cabinet and Council prior to submission to the Secretary of State.
In presenting the report, the Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder stressed the importance of appointing consultants with expertise in this field.
The Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder explained that he was keen in his role to avoid expenditure where there was no direct and immediate impact on the lives of the residents of South Lakeland, adding that he was of the opinion that this was not the right time for focussing of Local Government Reform when resources could be better used to fight the current pandemic. However, with the tight timescale involved and with Council having voted to explore a Morecambe Bay Unitary, he believed that the many different issues which needed to be addressed could only currently be done so through the appointment of external consultants.
The Leader asked the meeting if the motion was agreed. There was no dissent.
RESOLVED - That
(1) approval be given for additional funding of £65,000 from existing budgets for external consultancy services and related costs related to preparing a proposal for Government;
(2) contract procedural rules with regards to the appointment of consultants be waived and the Chief Executive be authorised to agree and appoint consultants for the purpose of developing a proposal for submission prior to the deadlines set by the MHCLG; and
(3) it be noted that further reports will be brought back to Cabinet and Council to agree any proposal prior to submission to Government.
Reasons for Decision
The additional funding is to support the work required to consider and submit a proposal for a single tier of local government.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
The Council may choose not to submit a proposal for a single tier authority. This option is not recommended.