About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

6th October 2014. Sheffield City Region Combined Authority Meeting, by Nigel Slack.

This relatively new combined authority is a formal iteration of a group that has been operating for the past two years. It comprises the leaders of the nine metropolitan and district councils around Sheffield City, Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster, Bassetlaw, NE Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Dales and Bolsover.At the moment they have only two real responsibilities, strategic transport and ecenomic development. The chair of the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) is also a member and is the organisation that the Government use to funnel any funds the Combined Authority may get for economic development. The meeting was held in the Rotherham Council Chamber.

Being so new there is an element of the constitutional aspects of the new authority still trying to catch up with their new legal status. Their current rules and procedures need some tweeking to improve both transparency and public engagement. In addition they are still not overseen by a suitable scrutiny body, though this is apparently close to being determined. The agenda for todays meeting had a couple of interesting items on it. The first was a report on the Rail North initiative. This initiative is about devolving the Northern and Trans Pennine rail franchises to the North of England. 30 local transport authorities make up this initiative and although it is only an influence on the new franchises for 2016 it is hoped that by becoming a fully constituted company they will be in a position to take over the franchises before 2023.

The second item of interest was an opening of a 'conversation' with a report about the City Region and local devolution. This is under the auspices of the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg's Northern Futures initiative. The responses for the Combined Authority need to be in by the 17th October, which seems very short notice for something that addresses some very big issues. The discussion in the meeting was interesting with a lot of concern in respect of "be careful what you wish for", worrying whether the government would again pass powers to the regions without providing the finances to service them. The chair also commented on the shortage of 'Big Ideas' for this initiative and how to find some.

I recorded this meeting and the section about the Northern Futures initiative is below. Unfortunately some of the leaders were very poor about using the microphones and the sound may drop out from time to time, even though I have tried to up the volume where this happens. This is the sort of thing that shows some lack of care when it comes to public engagement and whether or not the public can actually hear what is being said in the chamber.

To contact, email nrslack@aol.com

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