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Agenda item

Report of the Chief Executive - Enhanced Inter-Tier Working and Devolution

Decision:

RESOLVED:

1)  That Maidstone Borough Council should continue to engage with other Kent local authorities with the objective of strengthening service delivery resilience, improving cost effectiveness and securing investment in services and community infrastructures;

2)  That Maidstone Borough Council should seek enhanced Inter tier working on the basis of the strategic priorities and services summarised at paragraph 2.14 of the report of the Chief Executive and that any amendments to this list be delegated to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Policy and Resources Committee until such time that local governance arrangements have been considered and established;

3)  That Maidstone Borough Council should work with district councils across Kent, Medway and Kent County Council to achieve this and in particular with Dartford, Gravesham, Medway, Swale and Kent County Councils;

4)  That delegated authority be given to the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, to agree the detail of principles for enhanced inter tier working;

5)  That Maidstone Borough Council should, when the opportunity arises, participate in discussions across the whole of Kent and Medway with the objective of developing a devolution proposition and that the Leader and Chief Executive will participate fully in these; and

6)  That Maidstone Borough Council should participate in further development of devolution propositions alongside the North Kent authorities of Gravesham, Dartford, Medway and Swale and KCC for the reasons set out in paragraph 2.33 of the report of the Chief Executive.

Minutes:

Members considered the report of the Chief Executive which related to  Enhanced Inter-Tier Working and Devolution.

 

The Chief Executive explained that the report had been produced as a result of a request by the Committee and as a result of a question by a Member at Full Council.

 

Members noted that the purpose of the report was to consider the merits of collaboration and partnership working across Kent. The Chief Executive emphasised that there was a desire of all authorities to improve inter-tier working which would include Kent County Council and Medway Council.

 

It was noted that the Leader and Chief Executive had attended meetings with districts and the debates have resulted in an overall driver to secure better outcomes through spending less public money.  All options need to be considered and could be achieved for example by inter-tier working, more partnership working and in some instances it could be better to go it alone.

The Chief Executive advised that it had become evident that West Kent and East Kent had a long history of collaborative working and had already established district and cluster footprints and there was a distinct reluctance for them to work with districts outside of their own area.  It is therefore clear that a desire to work with the North Kent authorities and Kent County Council would be the best option for this Council.  This would include Gravesham, Dartford, Medway and Swale districts.

 

However, there is no suggestion that the partnership arrangements that the Council currently has with other districts would not continue.

 

Members were advised that devolution was already operating across the country and Maidstone had already benefited being part of the South East LEP (Local Enterprise Partnerships) growth deal.  This had included funding to support transport infrastructure in Maidstone which is one of the Council’s priorities.

 

The Council therefore needed to consider whether it wanted to progress working in the North Kent arena.

 

During the ensuing discussion Members made a number of points as follows:-

 

·  That this was a pragmatic way forward and the Council cannot afford to stand outside.  There was a clear message from East and West Kent that we are not welcome;

·  We should look at ways of working with our colleagues to improve services for local people.  We should try and get a deal with North Kent.

·  The report was very concise and was the first step along a long path, we should not unpick it, we should work with it.

·  Confused about the approaches made, on whose authority were they made. 

·  There should be some scrutiny undertaken about those Councils who we want to enter into a partnership with. We should look at balance sheets.

·  Should the Council be looking at what the liability would be to Maidstone’s taxpayers, what risk are we setting ourselves up for.

·  Should the Council take the line of working with North Kent, rural services would be further down the priority list.

·  We should be knocking on all districts’ doors to be in charge of our own destiny, North Kent is a long way away and it pulls us into something we cannot relate to.  The principle of devolution is correct but it has gone quiet in central government, so not sure if they are on the same pathway.

·  Not enough evidence to persuade us to take a certain route which would affect the next 10 to 20 years.  Can support the principle but cannot support the recommendations put forward as we do not have enough information in the report.

·  There should be more information in the report about why the other areas were not open to discussions.  Why was it not possible to use Tunbridge Wells as a conduit to work with others.  What evidence supports that theory?

·  The recommendations in the report were correct, it is the right direction.  We do have some synergies with West Kent and no doubt those relationship would continue.

·  There are clear economic synergies with Swale and Gravesham and there was no evidence to suggest that working with Dartford and Gravesham would harm our rural areas.

·  We are in limbo, when did the kent leaders meeting take place and why did we not have a report straightaway?

·  Have the Council written to the West Kent Authorities?

·  Have we looked at operationally how this would work, what would the impact on this Council be?

·  Is the area finite or could we have the opportunity to be involved elsewhere?

·  Economic development is the key, we need to have as many jobs as possible.  We don’t want Maidstone to turn into a dormitory town for another area.  We need to build on this.

 

In response to the points made by Members, the Chief Executive advised that:

·  the five Group Leaders had been appraised of the discussions on devolution that had been held at County and district level.  However, there had not been anything substantial to bring to Committee until now.  However, it was therefore considered important that the Committee gave a mandate now to move forward.

·  Devolution had not gone away, indeed ten deals had already been made across the country.  The risk of not participating was that the Council would only have a fixed amount of resources and with government cuts we would need to secure as much resources as possible.

·  it was emphasised that the Council could not continue to be completely on their own. 

·  There is a suggestion that all our services would be carried out on the footprint of what is in the report, this is not the case or what we want to achieve.  In terms of inter tier working, the other districts may do something that is better performing that we currently do, so it would be worth joining forces to work on one footprint.

·  The list is not finite, there will be opportunities to work more closely together on other services.

·  The outcome from this report would be to take the first step, after which the detail would be looked into more and Members would be fully involved. 

 

During the discussion Councillor Mrs Blackmore proposed and Councillor Boughton seconded a change to Recommendation 3 to read:

 

‘That if recommendation 2 is agreed, then Maidstone Borough Council should work with district councils across Kent, Medway and Kent County Councils’.

 

The motion was lost.

 

Voting:  For:  4  Against:  11  Abstentions:  0

 

Councillor Mrs Blackmore then proposed and Councillor Boughton seconded a change to Recommendation 5 to read:

‘Maidstone Borough Council should, when the opportunity arises, participate in discussions across the whole of Kent and Medway with the objective of developing potential devolution propositions and that the Leader and Chief Executive will participate fully in these’.

 

The motion was lost.

 

Voting:  For:  5  Against:  10  Abstentions:  0

 

Councillors Mrs Blackmore, Boughton, Brice and Round asked that their dissent be recorded in regard to Recommendations 3, 5 and 6 only

 

The Committee then voted on the recommendations set out in the report.

RESOLVED:

1)  That Maidstone Borough Council should continue to engage with other Kent local authorities with the objective of strengthening service delivery resilience, improving cost effectiveness and securing investment in services and community infrastructures;

Voting:  For:  15  Against:  0  Abstentions:  0

2)  That Maidstone Borough Council should seek enhanced Inter tier working on the basis of the strategic priorities and services summarised at paragraph 2.14 of the report of the Chief Executive and that any amendments to this list be delegated to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Policy and Resources Committee until such time that local governance arrangements have been considered and established;

Voting:  For:  13  Against:  1  Abstentions:  1

3)  That Maidstone Borough Council should work with district councils across Kent, Medway and Kent County Council to achieve this and in particular with Dartford, Gravesham, Medway, Swale and Kent County Councils;

Voting:  For:  10  Against:  4  Abstentions:  1

4)  That delegated authority be given to the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, to agree the detail of principles for enhanced inter tier working;

Voting:  For:  13  Against:  2  Abstentions:  0

5)  That Maidstone Borough Council should, when the opportunity arises, participate in discussions across the whole of Kent and Medway with the objective of developing a devolution proposition and that the Leader and Chief Executive will participate fully in these; and

Voting:  For:  11  Against:  4  Abstentions:  0

 

6)  That Maidstone Borough Council should participate in further development of devolution propositions alongside the North Kent authorities of Gravesham, Dartford, Medway and Swale and KCC for the reasons set out in paragraph 2.33 of the report of the Chief Executive.

Voting:  For:  11  Against:  4  Abstentions:  0