Next steps for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

Runcorn bridge

 

Those of a nervous disposition should note that I am almost certain that Joe Anderson will agree with almost everything I say in this Blog!

The new Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has not got off to a good start. Discussion about its name and who chairs it have obscured the launch of what should be the most significant piece of the Greater Liverpool governance architecture to be completed for decades.

Leaving aside the precise boundaries which should be followed the Greater Liverpool conurbation is a place where local council boundaries have little meaning for the purposes of strategic investment, strategic planning, strategic transport and inward investment.

If a good job is created in Liverpool City Centre it might well be taken by someone living in one of the other 5 boroughs or even further afield. And vice versa. If we want to attract industry and commerce what Liverpool City can offer might not be suitable but the land or opportunities that are available in one of the other 5 Boroughs might be. If we want to attract government investment we need to show cohesion. A road or rail boundary does not stop at the boundary of a council or for that matter at the boundary of a city region.

As an example of this one of the transport priorities supported by the whole of the conurbation lies almost at its edge. Getting a second crossing of the Mersey at Runcorn is vital not only for Halton residents and businesses but also for South Knowsley and South Liverpool economic development and an additional route from the city for port traffic.

I think that there is general, if not unanimous agreement about this. So we just need to get on and deliver those opportunities.

What does the Combined Authority need to do? Just four things but four very complex things:

  1. It needs to articulate a vision for the conurbation based on a clear understanding of our strengths, weaknesses and heritage.
  2. It needs to prioritise the potential growth areas in terms of both geography and sector.
  3. It needs to convert those priorities into a realistic delivery plan which is shared by central and local government; central government; and the private sector.
  4. It needs to deliver that programme.

Fortunately we are not starting from scratch. There has been a Council Leaders meeting since the old county council was abolished in 1984. This was formalised into a City Region Board about 4 years ago. Work is already being undertaken on programme implementation using government funds received by both councils and the Local Enterprise Partnership. These funds are being augmented by the councils themselves; European Money and, most important of all, the private sector who invest their own cash in the opportunities which we inform them about and in some cases create.

To take this forward the City Region now needs to:

  1. Start a great debate about the future with:
  • The people of the conurbation
  • The councils of the conurbation because there has not been much explanation in most councils of what the City Region actually wants to achieve;
  • The private sector both directly with appropriate industries and companies and through proxy bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce
  • Our academic institutions
  • Central Government
  • European Government
  1. To develop much more transparent and open system of governance so that more people know more about what is being done both for them and in their name.
  2. To settle differences between leaders and ensure that lead responsibilities are assigned so that work and actions are not dependent on a share but taken forward by each authority.
  3. To establish a proactive scrutiny system which can do two things:
  • Work alongside the Board to review potential activities and programmes
  • Scrutinise the work of the Board to ensure that robust decision making is taking place.

The scrutiny role is, of course particularly important when the entire Board is composed of Leaders of just one political party. Lead responsibility for that should then rest with none Labour councillors.

As I said at the beginning I suspect that Mayor Anderson will agree with much of this. He and I have and will continue to have our differences on a range of internal Liverpool issues. BUT just as I supported his candidature for the leadership of this combined authority I support his ambition in trying to make the Authority work for all of us and all our futures. The world is a big place and we need to ‘big up’ in many ways to meet the challenges but also the possibilities that lie ahead. Together we can achieve, divided we will fail and fall.

I am sorry this is not as exciting as a written fisticuffs but sometimes the most important things have to be dealt with in a sober and constrained way. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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One Response to Next steps for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

  1. John Brace says:

    On point (2) openness and transparency I made a request to film the Combined Authority meeting of the 1st April but the request was turned down. In the interests of openness and transparency I’ll put here the email I received and my reply.

    Dear Sheena Ramsey,

    Thank you for your email of the 31st March 2014. I apologise for taking a long time to reply to you as to the points by it. I am also sending a copy of this reply to the Chair of the Combined Authority Cllr Phil Davies who stated at the meeting on the 1st April itself that the Combined Authority would be operating “in an open and transparent way, the way we are this morning”.

    In light of this commitment to openness and transparency made at the meeting by the Chair I would like to publish your email to me of 31st March detailing your decision to refuse to accede to my request to film the meeting of the 1st April. If the Combined Authority is acting in “an open and transparent way” then I can’t see any problem with this email being published?

    I outline below my response to the email, which was sent in the afternoon before the meeting (which sadly meant I didn’t have a chance to read it before the meeting itself on April 1st) with quotes from your email.

    “Whilst you have quoted various sections of the draft legislation to me, it must be remembered that at this stage it is only draft legislation which has no legal force and effect and is not therefore binding on the Combined Authority and indeed the consultation findings have yet to be published in that regard. It is therefore conceivable that the draft regulations could change before they are eventually made.”

    I didn’t quote various sections of the draft legislation in my email of 25th March. I did link to the draft “Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014” in reference to filming the June meeting.

    The only legislation quoted in my email was an existing legal requirement which is detailed in section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998, has been in force since 1st October 2009 and states at subsection 1 “It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which in incompatible with a Convention right”. You can confirm this for yourself at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/section/6?timeline=true .

    You go on to state “It is therefore conceivable that the draft regulations could change before they are eventually made.” and “and indeed the consultation findings have yet to be published in that regard. ”

    Since what the government is referring to as a “short, focused, informal soundings exercise” with the LGA, Lawyers in Local Government, SOLACE and NALC the government received various responses which are summarised in the explanatory memorandum to the regulations (which was published on 2nd April). The only drafting/policy point accepted by these responses in relation to the filming provisions was that the regulations now won’t place a legal requirement on local government bodies to allow oral reporting or oral commentary by local government bodies during the meeting itself.

    The rest of the draft regulations (which were laid before the House of Commons on the 3rd April) in relation to filming are unchanged. You can read the draft regulations and explanatory memorandum here http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2014/9780111113554/contents . Statutory instruments can’t be amended, just accepted or rejected by Parliament. Statutory instruments are extremely rarely not approved, the last time a statutory instrument was not approved that was subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in the House of Commons was 1978! So the version of the regulations I’ve linked to will become law in the near future without any further modifications.

    “Once that guidance has been received, the Combined Authority will then be in a position to consider the options and how best to facilitate the requirements of the new Regulations.”

    I would suggest that as the Combined Authority’s constitution specifically states that part of the Head of the Secretariat’s role is “determining requests to record or film such meetings” that if the regulations are in force by the time of the Combined Authority’s next meeting on the 13th June that this would be a good opportunity for those on the Combined Authority to agree to remove this from its constitution to prevent any confusion in the future.

    I will also point out that once the regulations have the force of law, whether guidance has been received or not the Combined Authority will still be required to follow them.

    “In addition, on a practical level, the layout of the Chamber means that anyone in the public gallery wishing to film would currently only be able to film the backs of people’s heads and for an individual to try to move around the Chamber would potentially cause both disruption to the proceedings which I cannot allow and could create a health and safety hazard for the participants at the meeting.”

    I wasn’t proposing I move around the Chamber and I’m quite capable of filming from a sitting position. As you’ve now had a chance to visit the Authority Room I hope you’ll realise this is incorrect. The Chair of the Combined Authority is sideways on to where the public sit. The rest of the Combined Authority are in a semicircle in front of the Chair. I agree that some officers at the last meeting were sitting between the public and those members of the Combined Authority in front of the Chair, however as those speaking stood up I do not see this as a problem.

    The Health and Safety Executive’s Mythbuster Panel has previously considered the issue of filming public meetings and their decision is published online here (case 124) http://www.hse.gov.uk/myth/myth-busting/2013/case124-filming-council-meeting.htm .

    I include their decision in this email on the same issue below.

    Issue

    A Local Council said there had to be a health and safety agreement between them and the enquirer to film a public meeting with a handheld HD camera, with or without a tripod. The local authority and its councillors have expressed concern about how recordings from public meetings may be used.

    Panel decision

    There are no health and safety regulations which prevent the filming of a public meeting at a local council. The council is clearly hiding behind “health and safety” as a convenient excuse rather than giving the real reasons for its concerns about full openness and transparency.

    “Your email refers me to the Human Rights Act 1998 and Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights and requests details of the legal power not to permit filming. That legal power is contained within the existing legislation, in particular the Local Government Act 1972 and the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 which clearly permits an authority not to allow filming of proceedings if it so chooses.”

    You refer to the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 . The only two references in those regulations to filming are at Regulations 20(4) and Regulation 4(6) which state

    “(4) Nothing in these Regulations requires a decision-making body to permit the taking of any photographs of any proceedings or the use of any means to enable persons not present to see or hear any proceedings (whether at the time or later), or the making of any oral report on any proceedings as they take place. ” and “(6) While the meeting is open to the public, any person attending the meeting for the purpose of reporting the proceedings is, so far as practicable, to be afforded reasonable facilities for taking their report. ”

    However, I wish to make two points about this. Firstly regulation 5(4) of The Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 (when they come into force) deletes Regulation 20(4) of the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 (which I presume is the regulation you are referring to which you state gives the Combined Authority the power to prevent filming at its public meetings).

    The second point is that the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 don’t apply to public meetings of the Combined Authority anyway. “Decision-making body” as defined in those regulations in Regulation 2 as either (a) an executive of a local authority, (b) a committee of a local authority executive, (c) a joint committee, where all the members of the joint committee are members of a local authority executive, which is authorised to discharge the function to which the executive decision relates in accordance with the Local Authorities (Arrangements for the Discharge of Functions) (England) Regulations 2012, (d) a sub-committee of a joint committee where all the members of the joint committee are members of a local authority executive, which is authorised to discharge the function to which the executive decision relates in accordance with the Local Authorities (Arrangements for the Discharge of Functions) (England) Regulations 2012 or (e) an area committee of a local authority executive, within the meaning of section 9E of the 2000 Act .

    (a) clearly does not apply to the Combined Authority or (b). (c) and (d) don’t apply as the Combined Authority includes the Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership. The Combined Authority doesn’t fall within the meaning of (e) either.

    You have not specified which part of the Local Government Act 1972 you are referring to that supposedly gives the Combined Authority the legal power to prevent filming. There is a legal principle in law “everything which is not allowed is forbidden” which means that the actions of public authorities are limited to the powers explicitly granted to them by law. Please be more explicit as to where you think this power derives from, otherwise I will be given the impression that it doesn’t actually exist (or does exist but doesn’t apply in this case).

    Please also regard this as a request to film the meeting of the 13th June.

    Yours sincerely,

    John Brace

    Sheena’s original email of the 31st March 2014 is below.

    Ramsey, Sheena Sheena.Ramsey@knowsley.gov.uk
    to: “john.brace@gmail.com”
    date: 31 March 2014 14:04
    subject: RE: request to film Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting of the 1st April 2014
    mailed-by: knowsley.gov.uk

    Dear Mr Brace

    Thank you for your recent email regarding your request to film the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting on 1 April 2014.

    As Head of the Secretariat (Designate) for the Combined Authority I must inform you that I am unable to accede to your request to film the proceedings on this occasion but in doing so I wanted to explain my reasoning behind this decision.

    I am aware of the consultation on the draft regulations that you mentioned. Whilst you have quoted various sections of the draft legislation to me, it must be remembered that at this stage it is only draft legislation which has no legal force and effect and is not therefore binding on the Combined Authority and indeed the consultation findings have yet to be published in that regard. It is therefore conceivable that the draft regulations could change before they are eventually made.

    The Combined Authority does however very much welcome the proposed legislation, as this will show the openness and transparency of the democratic process, and understands that it is likely to be brought into effect sometime during the summer of 2014.

    I understand from the DCLG that advanced notice will be given as to when the new Regulations will come into effect and guidance issued as to their application. Once that guidance has been received, the Combined Authority will then be in a position to consider the options and how best to facilitate the requirements of the new Regulations. I am anticipating that the Combined Authority would certainly be looking to try to facilitate requests as soon as reasonably practical after the new Regulations are made.

    In addition, on a practical level, the layout of the Chamber means that anyone in the public gallery wishing to film would currently only be able to film the backs of people’s heads and for an individual to try to move around the Chamber would potentially cause both disruption to the proceedings which I cannot allow and could create a health and safety hazard for the participants at the meeting.

    Your email refers me to the Human Rights Act 1998 and Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights and requests details of the legal power not to permit filming. That legal power is contained within the existing legislation, in particular the Local Government Act 1972 and the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012 which clearly permits an authority not to allow filming of proceedings if it so chooses.

    Whilst the Combined Authority is fully aware of the Government’s commitment to openness and transparency and the wish for all proceedings to be filmed, it remains (at least until the new Regulations are made) a decision for the relevant authority to make. The Combined Authority as with a number of other authorities has decided to treat each particular request on its own merits at the time of that request. At the present time the Combined Authority does not wish for the proceedings to be filmed for the reasons set out earlier.

    What I can assure you is that the Combined Authority will be working with a number of people over the next few months to try to facilitate future opportunities/requests such as the one you have made.

    As you know, you are very welcome to attend the meeting as a member of the public and to enjoy the proceedings first hand.

    I trust this response addresses your enquiry.

    Yours sincerely

    Sheena Ramsey
    Head of the Secretariat (Designate) for the Combined Authority
    This e-mail and any attachments are confidential. It may contain privileged information and is intended for the named recipient(s) only. It must not be distributed without consent. If you are not one of the intended recipients, please notify the sender immediately and do not disclose, distribute, or retain this email or any part of it and do not take any action based on it.

    Unless expressly stated, opinions in this email are those of the individual sender, and not of Knowsley MBC. Legally binding obligations can only be created for, or be entered into on behalf of, Knowsley MBC by duly authorised officers or representatives.

    Knowsley MBC excludes any liability whatsoever for any offence caused, any direct or consequential loss arising from the use, or reliance on, this e-mail or its contents. We believe but do not warrant that this e-mail and any attachments are virus free. You must therefore take full responsibility for virus checking and no responsibility is accepted for loss or damage arising from viruses or changes made to this message after it was sent. Knowsley MBC reserves the right to monitor and/or record all e-mail communications through its network in accordance with relevant legislation.

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