Attached are the reports summarising the work of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority in January 2018
The Council noted reports prepared by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority summarising the work of the Authority during January 2018.
The Council’s representatives on the Combined Authority were invited to comment on the reports, as summarised below:-
· Councillor Peter Topping, the Leader of the Council and the Council’s representative on the Combined Authority Board:-
o Commented on the position with the Independent Economic Commission being led by Dame Kate Barker, noting that South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambridge City Council and the Greater Cambridge Partnership had submitted well argued responses to the call for evidence.
o Reported on the expectation that the Combined Authority would be announcing a further 250 homes as part of the acceleration of the affordable housing programme.
o Advised of the work being undertaken by the Combined Authority to accelerate delivery of houses, both affordable and for market, at Northstowe.
o Commented that the Combined Authority had agreed to development of an outline business case and options appraisal report for the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) proposal.
· Councillor Andrew Fraser noted that the Audit and Corporate Governance Committee had not met since the last meeting of the Council.
· Councillor Alex Riley, a member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee:-
o Referred to concerns about the allocation of resources across the Combined Authority area and his understanding that an aim of the Independent Economic Commission review was to help ensure that growth proposals were fair across the whole of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
o Commented that a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had been called on 12 February 2018 to review the budget report due to be considered by the Board on 14 February 2018. Members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had expressed their concern at the lack of detail in the budget papers and that they did not reflect the money committed to projects in future years, such as the commitment made to Peterborough University.
o Noted that the Committee had agreed to set up a task and finish group to look at the CAM metro proposal.
During questions addressed to the Council’s representatives on the Combined Authority:-
· Councillor Anna Bradnam sought more information about the Independent Economic Commission, noting that it did not appear to be referred to in the Combined Authority’s report before Council. In response, Councillor Topping acknowledged that whilst this issue might not be referred to in the papers, he had thought it important to keep Members up to date on progress with the Independent Economic Commission and could provide further information to Councillor Bradnam and other Members if this would be helpful.
· The Leader reported that the Combined Authority Board had discussed the need for future budgets to have a “forward look”.
· Councillor Sebastian Kindersley asked whether it was wise to place so much faith in the outcomes of the Independent Economic Commission, referring to the outcomes of a previous review led by the Chair of the Commission on housing supply which, amongst other things, had concluded that in the region of a further 200,000 extra homes would need to be built each year in England. In response, Councillor Riley commented on the powers of the Mayor and emphasised the importance of the work being undertaken by the Independent Economic Commission, referring to his understanding that members of the Commission were committed to the review.
· Councillor Bridget Smith commented that she found the level of reporting on the Combined Authority meetings, by way of decision sheet, to be unsatisfactory and asked whether a more comprehensive means of reporting back could be developed so that Councillors were not reliant on the Council’s representative to keep them informed. Councillor Riley commented on his perception that there appeared to be limited discussion and information available at Board meetings, but he noted that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee was seeking to find ways of achieving more effective challenge. Councillor Topping commented on his understanding that some authorities arranged briefings for Members at full Council meetings and suggested that the Council could arrange briefings on particular subjects to be held before Council meetings so that they were not constrained by standing orders.
· Councillor Des O’Brian referred to the minutes of the Council held on 17 November 2016 concerning the devolution debate, which recorded concerns expressed by Councillor Riley on the proposed scrutiny arrangements of the Combined Authority and indicated that he had questioned the purpose of including independent members on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He asked whether Councillor Riley was satisfied that Overview and Scrutiny was working effectively and that its views were listened to. Councillor Riley acknowledged that he had challenged the proposal to appoint independent persons on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee when discussed in November 2016 since, given that they would not have voting rights, their role had been unclear. Independent members had not been appointed and he still saw no reason why they should be. He commented on how Overview and Scrutiny was working, noting that whilst the committee could call in individual portfolio holder decisions, it had no power over mayoral initiatives. He also commented on the impact of the LEP being brought within the auspices of the Combined Authority for membership and voting at the Combined Authority.
· Councillor Anna Bradnam queried whether the minutes of Combined Authority meetings were available. It was noted that the decision summary contained a link to the relevant webpage where more information about each meeting, including the minutes once published, could be found.