Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority (Election of Mayor) Order 2016 - Motion to Approve

– in the House of Lords at 8:05 pm on 18 July 2016.

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Moved by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

That the draft Order laid before the House on 27 June be approved.

Relevant document: 5th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

I shall also speak to the West Midlands Combined Authority (Election of Mayor) Order 2016. The draft orders, if approved, will create the position of mayor for both the Sheffield City Region and the West Midlands Combined Authority, with the first elections in these areas to be held in May 2017; and set the first mayoral term for a duration of three years, with the next election in May 2020, with subsequent four-year terms. The Government committed in their manifesto to,

“devolve far-reaching powers over economic development, transport and social care to large cities which choose to have directly-elected mayors”.

To give effect to this commitment, the Government passed the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act earlier this year. As I set out to the House during the passage of this enabling legislation, the Government have introduced clauses to allow directly elected mayors for combined authority areas because devolution of the ambition and scale set out in the Government’s manifesto requires strong, clear accountability and leadership. It is necessary that, when major powers and budgets are being devolved, local people know who is responsible for decisions. Mayoral governance offers a proven model for effective local leadership which has worked around the world.

On the Sheffield City Region, this order is a milestone in the implementation of the devolution deal agreed between the Government and local leaders on 2 October 2015. It follows the establishment of the combined authority on 1 April 2014, from which time it has been serving the Sheffield city region, bringing together across the area the closely interconnected issues of transport, economic development and regeneration. On 2 October 2015, the Government and combined authority announced a devolution agreement which provided an offer of powers and budgets from government on the basis that the area will deliver certain reforms and measures, including adopting a directly elected mayor covering the whole of the combined authority area. This agreement included that the mayor for the Sheffield City Region would be responsible for a consolidated, devolved transport settlement; following the introduction of the necessary primary legislation, be responsible for the franchised bus services, which in turn will support the combined authority’s delivery of smart and integrated ticketing across the combined authority’s constituent councils; take on responsibility for an identified key route network of local authority roads; and have responsibility for strategic planning, including the responsibility to create a spatial framework for the city region.

In turn, the combined authority of Sheffield City Region takes on responsibility for devolved funding—that is £30 million a year over 30 years; control of the devolved 19-plus adult skills funding by 2018-19; joint responsibility with the Government to co-design employment support for harder-to-help claimants; and a devolved approach to business support from 2017, to be developed in partnership with government. In addition, the Government agreed to pilot a scheme in the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority that will allow the area to retain 100% of any business rate growth beyond that forecast. It will also enable the combined authority to create an investment fund of £900 million through the 30-year gain share funding. In return, the area has agreed appropriate governance for these new powers and budgets, centred on a combined authority and a directly elected mayor providing the vital, sharp, single point of accountability that is essential if such wide-ranging powers and budgets are to be handed to the area.

The West Midlands order is a milestone in the implementation of the devolution deal agreed between the Government and local leaders on 17 November 2015. The first step in implementing this deal was made on 17 June 2016, when the combined authority was established, with powers over transport, economic development and regeneration. On 17 November 2015, the Government and the leaders of the West Midlands announced a devolution agreement which provided an offer of powers and budgets from the Government on the basis that the area would deliver certain reforms and measures, including adopting a directly elected mayor covering the whole combined authority area.

The agreement included that the mayor for the West Midlands would individually exercise some functions in relation to transport and strategic planning, and the combined authority would take on responsibility for: devolved funding of £36.5 million a year over 30 years for the West Midlands area; control of the devolved 19-plus adult skills funding by 2018-19; joint responsibility with the Government to codesign employment support for harder-to-help claimants; and a devolved approach to business support from 2017, to be developed in partnership with the Government. It will also enable the combined authority to create an investment fund of over £1 billion through the 30-year revenue stream and locally raised finance. In return, the area has agreed appropriate governance for these new powers and budgets, centred on a combined authority and a directly elected mayor providing that vital, sharp, single point of accountability to which I referred in relation to the Sheffield City Region.

In delivering the full range of commitments in the devolution deal, the Secretary of State intends, subject to statutory requirements and parliamentary approval, to make further orders to implement the deal. Subsequent orders will include the transfer of budgets and powers over planning, transport, education and skills.

These draft orders establish mayors for both the Sheffield City Region and the West Midlands, set out the dates of elections, and set the first and subsequent term lengths. The orders are laid before Parliament following the statutory process specified in the 2009 Act, as amended by the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. As required, all the constituent councils in the combined authorities have consented to these orders being made. As required, we are now seeking Parliament’s approval before making these orders.

These orders are about delivering devolution and empowering local authorities to set their own policy agendas. They provide enhanced local leadership in the form of directly elected mayors, with a strong democratic mandate and independence from the combined authority. The mayors will work closely with local leaders, who will sit on the combined authority boards. Together they will drive forward the economic opportunities presented by devolution, with the mayor acting as chairman or chairwoman of the combined authority and providing a single voice for the area that can both be prominent nationally and help drive the devolution agenda.

As noble Lords may recall, in the passage of the enabling legislation for this order, there was debate on the necessity of mayors in devolving powers to local areas. The Government have made their position clear on the necessity of mayors. However, the Government are not alone in this belief. Research commissioned by the Centre for Cities in May 2016 found that members of the public across five devolution deal areas surveyed supported the notion that directly elected mayors should have greater powers than local council leaders.

That said, it is important to note that no one area has been required to adopt the mayoral model. The Government’s position is that if an area is to have a mayor it will be because that area, through its democratically elected representatives, has chosen to have one. However, the Government view the devolution deal as a two-way process. As such, it is the Government’s clear intention that the accountability offered by a mayor is desirable and therefore this forms part of the devolution deals that have been agreed between the Government and local leaders.

The Government are making excellent progress in implementing their devolution agenda. An order establishing the position of mayor in Greater Manchester was made on 29 March 2016. As noble Lords will recall, last week the Grand Committee debated orders to establish the position of mayor for the Liverpool City Region and for Tees Valley. An order to establish the position of mayor for the north-east has also been laid. All these areas are scheduled to hold their first mayoral elections on 4 May 2017.

In conclusion, if these draft orders are approved it will open the way for the full implementation of the devolution deals for the Sheffield City Region and the West Midlands. They are therefore a significant milestone in devolving powers to local areas, leading to greater prosperity, more balanced economies and economic success across the Sheffield City Region, the West Midlands and, indeed, the country.

We are committed to this devolution agenda because it gives a real opportunity for areas to assume powers and budgets, which will help those areas achieve their potential, take control of their growth and, importantly, have a positive impact on the lives of local citizens. These orders will provide both the Sheffield City Region and the West Midlands with a strong voice and an effective leader who can deliver for the local area and help rebalance the economy of the country as a whole. I therefore commend these draft orders to the House.

Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 8:15, 18 July 2016

My Lords, I extend a warm welcome to the Minister on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box in his new position. It troubles me that it was 10 years ago that I concluded a report on public services in Wales, which was named—though not by me—the Beecham report. At some point perhaps the Minister and I could have a session in which I can catch up on what, if anything, has happened since that report was published=.

These two orders, providing for the election of mayors for the combined authorities of the West Midlands and South Yorkshire, constitute the launch, in effect, of two further vessels to join the devolution armada which the Government are intent on creating. Both areas contain authorities which voted by substantial majorities not to have elected mayors when they were compelled to have referendums on the issue. The Government pretend that it is open to the authorities in question to accept or reject the concept of an elected mayor for the combined authority and so, formally speaking, it is. However, given that the entire devolution deal depends upon the adoption of the mayoral model, the reality is that councils are faced with the political equivalent of Henry Ford’s offer to those who wished to purchase his cars: “You can have any colour as long as it’s black”. The millions of people who live in these areas can have devolution with any kind of local governance as long as it is headed by a mayor.

In the case of these areas and others which have entered into or plan to enter into agreements with the Government, there are concerns about the new system and the claims made for it by Ministers. Some of these relate to the alleged benefits to be derived from the additional funding to be provided to combined authorities and their mayors for investing in economic growth. The West Midlands will receive £36.5 million a year for 30 years, or, as the Minister said, £1.095 billion, which equates to £13 a year per head of population. South Yorkshire will receive £30 million a year, £900 million in aggregate, which is the equivalent of £22 per head of population per annum.

These figures compare with £915.6 million of local authority capital expenditure and £105.2 million of annual growth fund allocations to the local enterprise partnerships in 2014-15 in the West Midlands, and £367.4 million and £54.7 million respectively for South Yorkshire. Therefore the bonanza amounts to an additional 3.6% for the West Midlands and 7% for South Yorkshire. Meanwhile, Birmingham alone will by 2020 be suffering from cuts to its revenue expenditure of £817 million a year. By the end of this year, Sheffield will have sustained cuts of £350 million a year, with the likelihood of some £50 million or £60 million a year more by 2020. It is clear that the vaunted claims for devolution made by its erstwhile progenitor, the lately departed George Osborne, were, in financial terms, wildly overstated. But there are other issues of concern to these two areas which need to be considered.

As the Secondary Legislation Committee points out, and as I mentioned when we discussed the combined authority order for South Yorkshire, there is an issue concerning the wishes of two districts in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, Bassetlaw and Chesterfield. They will become part of the combined authority and thereby, for the purposes of the combined authority, will come under the authority of the elected mayor for South Yorkshire. They would, however, remain under their existing county councils for functions such as education, social care and libraries. But, given the relationship between, say, housing and public health, which are matters over which the combined authority may be expected to exert influence, how is this likely to work?

I warned that we seemed to be in danger of sliding into a back-door reorganisation of local government as the demand for a unitary model, based on an expanded South Yorkshire combined authority, inevitably grows. Alternatively, or additionally, will we see the creation of a North Midlands combined authority, presumably not a mayoral authority, of which, confusingly, Chesterfield and Bassetlaw would seek to be members, as the Select Committee observed? They would be based upon the two counties of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

The National Audit Office explicitly warned, as the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee remind us, that devolution deals, such as that in the West Midlands,

“are increasingly being negotiated and agreed with more complex and untested geographies”.

Its report of 20 April refers explicitly to,

“risks around alignment with the administrative geographical areas for other linked policies”,

citing the NHS planning guidance which requires areas,

“to define their own local health economies and to consider devolution deals while doing so”.

As the National Audit Office points out, given that,

“geographical configurations … have yet to be resolved in many areas, it is not yet clear how these two processes will align”.

So can the Minister tell us what discussions have taken place between the DCLG and the Department of Health, and for that matter with NHS England, about the position in general, and specifically with regard to the two areas we are discussing today? This is particularly relevant to the complex situation in the West Midlands where, as I pointed out when we were discussing the combined authority order, we appear to be reverting to the era of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, with its Kingdom of Mercia.

The West Midlands mayor will head a combined authority with seven member councils, three local enterprise partnerships and no fewer than five non-constituent member authorities: namely, Cannock Chase, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Redditch, Tamworth, and Telford and Wrekin, all of which are districts within a county council whose residents will not have a voice or a vote in the choice of mayor. How is this consistent with democratic local government? What will be the relationship with the relevant county councils?

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee referred in an earlier report to “combination creep” through the involvement in combined authorities of non-constituent councils or councils outside the geographical limits of existing combined authorities. Given that the report was published only last Thursday I do not expect the Minister to be able to respond today and to provide the greater clarity the committee seeks. But could he indicate when a reply will be provided, and whether it would not be sensible to pause before proceeding with this series of orders, which seem set to lead in some areas to highly complex changes whose benefits are at best highly unquantifiable?

The idea of devolution is welcome, but not every aspiring area is the same. Huge questions go unanswered about finance, accountability and structures to different degrees in different areas, and we do not know whether the new Prime Minister, her Chancellor and the Secretary of State share the apparent enthusiasm of their predecessors for this policy.

Some areas—Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the Tees Valley—are well down the road and are well defined, but more work is surely required to ensure that for the kind of areas we are discussing today, and with some still to come, the serious questions raised by the National Audit Office, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and others can properly be addressed. I make it clear that we on these Benches—all of us—want to see this devolution work and be properly funded, but it is difficult to see how well it will work unless these critical questions are answered. We do not want to see the devolution armada scattered to the four winds like its Spanish naval counterpart.

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Liberal Democrat

My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, on his appointment, and we welcome him in assisting the drive for devolution. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, said about the importance of devolution—it is a shared agenda across your Lordships’ House. I hope very much that the new Minister will bring his expertise to bear on the detail of the move to greater devolution within England as the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act is implemented.

I should say at the outset that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Right across local government, politicians have been very supportive of the move to greater devolution.

Last week, there was a debate on similar orders for Merseyside and the Tees Valley. I do not want to repeat comments that were made during that debate, except to say that I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, said about the general approach being taken and about some of the problems being produced by changes in government, as well as the overall financial problems that local government has.

Last week it was confirmed—as it will be tonight—that there will be a mayoral election in May 2017, even if there is no agreement later this year on the powers and budgets that a combined authority will have. I understand the reasons for that, although if that were to happen it would clearly make things more complicated and more difficult to explain to the general public.

In our debate on Merseyside and the Tees Valley, I drew attention to a report on the devolution process published at the beginning of this month by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons. There is a full record in Hansard of what we said, but the crucial sentence in the report that I want to draw to the Minister’s attention tonight is on page 3 of the summary:

“There has been insufficient consideration by central government of local scrutiny arrangements, of accountability to the taxpayer and of the capacity and capability needs of local and central government as a result of devolution”.

I subscribe to that. There was a request by the Public Accounts Committee that:

“Government should set out by November 2016 its plans for how it will ensure that local scrutiny of devolved functions and funding will be both robust and well supported”.

I think there is a commitment from the Government to come back with the detail of the powers, budgets and scrutiny at the same time so that we get both at once, because that really matters.

I am grateful to the Minister for the letter that we received today by email. It answers some of the issues that we raised during the debate on the Merseyside and Tees Valley orders concerning how a chair of an overview and scrutiny committee could be appointed. It is made clear in the letter that an independent chair will be appointed following “an open, competitive process”. I think that that implies the Nolan procedures, but I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed that it does. The letter states that,

“a candidate must submit an application to the combined authority in response to a public advertisement”,

and the appointment,

“must be approved by a majority of the members of the combined authority”.

The letter then says—this is a point I take issue with—that there will therefore be,

“a wholly transparent appointment process mirroring the approach which councils must use when appointing independent persons under the Localism Act 2011 for the purposes of the councillors conduct regime”.

Local councils are bound by statute to proportionality in the make-up of committees. The difficulty here is that a combined authority will be the leader of the local authorities. It is entirely possible—and certainly it would happen in the north-east of England, where I live—that there would be seven Labour chairs. I am concerned that proportionality simply cannot exist in such a constitutional structure. Indeed, an independent chair could be appointed by a majority vote of a one-party committee. I hope very much that when the Minister comes back later this year, the guidance—if it is guidance, as opposed to being statutory—makes it clear that this appointment cannot simply be in the hands of a handful of people, all from one party, who may decide to support an independent person who, in practice, may well not be entirely independent. I draw that to the Minister’s attention because it is important we ensure that public confidence in the powers of an elected mayor is protected.

Finally, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee made an important point about what it calls “combination creep” through the involvement in combined authorities of non-constituent councils. There is a problem regarding whether we have top-down devolution or devolution on the basis of what local people want. Of course, the councils, particularly in the case of South Yorkshire, have made a decision. For example, Bassetlaw and Chesterfield have asked to belong to the combined authority. Although I note the point made by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, it seems to me that the principle of devolution is best served by asking local people what they want. If those councils want to be part of that structure, it is for them to decide.

Indeed, during the passage of the Bill we debated whether a council could belong to two combined authorities. I remember perfectly well the then Minister’s reply: they could. That point has been picked up by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, and is one for the Minister to look at. It need not be answered now, but it needs to be answered clearly by the time we get to finalising these orders in the autumn.

Photo of Lord Prescott Lord Prescott Labour 8:30, 18 July 2016

My Lords, back in 1997, when I was Secretary of State in the Blair Government, we brought about the biggest amount of devolution in this country: in Scotland, in Wales and, indeed, in the London area. All those proposals were opposed by the Tory Administration, largely because they were about regional bodies having elected representatives.

The appointment of mayors, as in this order, is, in one sense, in defiance of the referendum, about which we are hearing a lot at the moment. The people spoke: they did not want mayors brought into this situation. But we are where we are. This is not devolution. It has been advanced and agreed, which is important, and the Government now see it as local government reform. The main difference is that a mayor is not accountable to the people in the area and there will not be elected assemblies, but rather local government forum restructure. That is fair enough; that is what the Government have got some of these local authorities to agree to.

What is interesting, as the Minister pointed out, is that the models are not all the same. The Manchester model is not the same as the models in Merseyside, Newcastle or Leeds, whatever is agreed there. It is certainly not the same as that in the order before us now. This goes one step further, beyond the local authority boundaries, by bringing together two district councils. The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee observed that that could lead to difficulties, which can probably be sorted out.

I am in an area which does not have anything in this regard and is not being asked anything. One of the proposals is that the local authorities in an area have to agree to produce the solution. My area is Hull, of course, but the whole of North Yorkshire, including a lot of Tory areas, is left out. The local authorities are not invited even to make a proposal for the North Yorkshire area because all this so-called devolution, or plan for combined authorities, ends at the Pennines. It does not touch Hull or North Yorkshire; it does not even cross the estuary on to the north Lincolnshire side, although, to be fair, I think the Government cobbled together something—I do not know whether mayors are involved—to form a north Lincolnshire proposal. The three local authorities, in North Yorkshire, Hull and on the Lincolnshire side, have agreed to come up with a proposal. I wonder whether the Government would consider that such a proposal meets the regional basis, because that is what we are talking about: the northern region. In fact, most of it is based on local authorities, but it does not have a regional dimension—so much so that, on Transport for the North, the Government are now having to bring legislation before this House to tell us how to develop the regional powers and regional decision-making which they so disliked.

Can the Minister indicate whether the Government might look, even within this timeframe, at a North Yorkshire proposal involving different political bodies reflecting both sides of this House? I am sure that people in Hull, Beverley and North Yorkshire would like to enjoy this development. It brings money with it, but, as my noble friend Lord Beecham pointed out, it does not necessarily do so in net terms; in fact, if you take account of the cuts, it could be less. Nevertheless, it is the Government’s policy—a new Government, at the moment. Could the area over the Pennines—the North Yorkshire area and Humberside—be considered? It could be brought together under the banner of the Humber estuary, which is one of the great assets of the area, with companies and investment now coming in. Would the Government be prepared to consider how we might include that area, whether it is called a devolved authority, devolution or a local authority? The rest of Yorkshire would like to be involved; will the Government consider such a proposal?

Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I want first to draw attention to my interest declared in the register as a member of Sheffield City Council. I also welcome the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, to his post and wish him well in taking forward the direction of travel on devolution.

As somebody who lives in one of the areas affected, Sheffield, I want to say that on the whole we welcome devolution; we welcome powers coming down to us for our great industries and powers that a municipal area will have to try to ensure that, socially, economically and environmentally, it prospers. However, there are issues regarding the legitimacy of an elected mayor in this area. In 2012, 127,400 people went to a ballot box to answer the question of whether they wished to have a directly elected mayor. Two out of three said no. Something called the Assembly North has brought together citizens across all four areas specifically to look at this deal and the proposal for a mayor. Eighty per cent of people who were asked said that they did not support the proposal for a directly elected mayor.

It is clear that a small number of people have decided that we are to have a mayor. Those people are the Government and the leaders of the authorities, because that is the only deal on the table if they wish to have the powers. I ask the Minister: how it can be that, when in 2012 some 127,000 people went to the ballot box and said no, without any discussion or negotiation they now find themselves in a position of having a mayor?

With regard to the £30 million, as a citizen and now as an elected member of Sheffield City Council, I have been asking whether this is capital, revenue or a combination of both. I have not been given a specific answer. I assume it is both but I ask specifically: is the £30 million allowing for both revenue and capital?

I also want to raise an issue that a number of noble Lords have raised—boundaries. I support my noble friend Lord Shipley. It is down to local autonomy. If we are to have devolution, areas must decide whether they wish to be part of a combined authority and part of electing the new directly elected mayors. However, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee raised some important issues. Let us take a number of the powers that are to be devolved—transport and roads, for example. The two authorities Chesterfield and Bassetlaw have other authorities in between them. If strategic decisions are to be made around the economic linkage of the totality of the area, what role does the Minister envisage Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire County Councils having when there may be something contradictory that they wish to do? It is a really important issue. We could have two different policy pushers that pull against each other and create confusion. What will happen? The original Bill stated that devolution would happen only if it still allowed the effective functioning of existing local government. In such areas as transport, what would happen?

Again, on skills, businesses in the area could have opposing skill systems in place for one functioning economy. While I support both Chesterfield and Bassetlaw coming in, there are questions about how and who holds court in terms of the differences that could happen.

Like my noble friend Lord Shipley, I understand that the Explanatory Memorandum states at paragraph 7.7 that further orders will come into place, even though a mayor could be elected. The powers may not have been agreed. This is specifically important for this area because the Minister may not know—his officials and the previous Minister will know—about the deal agreed on 22 October between the leaders of South Yorkshire and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. Within weeks, the leader of Sheffield City Council said she could not support that deal. That caused confusion and mayhem for local businesses in the area. She specifically mentioned two issues. The issue about areas such as Chesterfield and Bassetlaw being allowed to join if they so wished has been resolved.

The other was to do with the veto of the mayor on the combined authority. I would like the Minister to confirm this so that there is clarity in South Yorkshire because no one from the Government’s side has clarified this yet. According to the Yorkshire Post, the veto of the mayor could be dissolved by a vote of those authorities that decide to join the new combined authority, even though the veto may be in the order. Has that issue been solved? If so, what is the resolution to that particular issue? As I said, I welcome the order on the whole, but there are serious questions that need to be addressed if we are to see this work as effectively and powerfully as I think all noble Lords in this House wish to see.

Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 8:45, 18 July 2016

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to what has been a wide-ranging debate. I shall try to deal with the various issues raised, I hope for the most part in the order in which they were raised. I turn first to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and I thank him very much for his kind comments. I well remember seeing him down in Wales at the time of the Beecham report, as it became known, and I am happy to update him on the progress—or perhaps lack of it in some areas—on local government reform there.

Let me try to deal with the points he raised. First, there is obviously a different approach to the issue of local mayors. We are of the view that there is a need for strong local leadership to carry this forward—somebody who will be accountable as a leader. It is the sort of thing that the Labour Party used to believe in, but it may be that it now has some issues about that. This should not take anybody by surprise because it is something that we have signalled clearly. Perhaps I may say that the Henry Ford analogy is somewhat unfair because local authorities have the option not to go down this route. Gateshead, for example, has chosen not to do so. So there is an option not to pursue the mayoral route but to have the quite separate arrangements that Gateshead has opted for.

I should also say that this will be somewhat different from mayoral elections that have taken place previously, which were not for combined authorities. This is a combined authority where the elected mayor will be responsible for the combined authority responsibilities but not for the constituent parts of the combined authority. As I indicated when introducing the Motion, while I know that polls are notoriously dangerous, a ComRes poll did show support in all the areas where we have proceeded so far for mayors taking over responsibility over all other types of organisation.

The issue of Bassetlaw and Chesterfield was raised. As I understand it, while it is true that there is an issue in relation to Chesterfield and Derbyshire, I think, although I may be proved wrong, that the discussions between Bassetlaw and Nottinghamshire are fruitful and moving forward. I will write to noble Lords about the progress of Bassetlaw and Chesterfield because I am not entirely sure where we are on that. Noble Lords will appreciate that I picked up the brief only yesterday afternoon, so I would be the first to admit that there are gaps in my knowledge.

If the Secretary of State is not satisfied that the statutory test has been met that the change is likely to improve the exercise of statutory functions in an area, he will be able to turn it down. That should give noble Lords some comfort on that point.

Perhaps I may deal with the point raised by several noble Lords about the Public Accounts Committee report published just over a week ago and the recommendations made in it. On the November 2016 deadline that was suggested in relation to overview and scrutiny committee obligations, we intend very much to honour that deadline and indeed to be ahead of it. I should like to offer that assurance. We will obviously—indeed we are statutorily obliged to do this following the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016—ensure that there is an independent and appropriate chair of both an overview and scrutiny committee and an audit committee. But I appreciate the point that where it may be a single party in relation to a devolution arrangement, we need to flesh that out and look at it in more detail. I undertake to have a closer look at that.

The appointment process will be open, transparent and based on open advertisement. I am also happy to be able to confirm that it will follow the Nolan principles. As I say, we will be bringing forward statutory guidance and fleshing out some of the rules as suggested.

Perhaps I may say in relation to a point made by several noble Lords—and certainly by the noble Lord, Lord Prescott—about Humberside and other areas that it is open to all authorities to come forward with proposals and the Government will take a close look at them. He is absolutely right to say that we are already looking at Greater Lincolnshire, which is Lincolnshire plus north-east Lincolnshire as a possible devolution deal, and others are being taken forward as well. We are looking at proposals in East Anglia that are still at a very nascent stage. So we are certainly open to looking at that; I can give that undertaking.

In relation to points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, about whether a district can be a full party to more than one devolution deal, a district or county council can be a full party to just one deal, but a county council could be a party to two or more deals because different parts of its area could be in different devolution deals. So a district or county council could not be part of more than one deal. That seems to be the logical position.

The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, asked about Sheffield and a mayoral power of veto. I understand that the only veto that exists is with the Government. I do not think that the mayor would have a veto, but I shall write to the noble Lord if I am wrong about that.

Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat

The issue was within the devolution deal. The mayor could have a veto on a vote of the combined authority. That was the issue that the leader of Sheffield City Council took exception to and, apparently, there has been some way forward, but it has not been reported to the people of South Yorkshire. The Minister’s letter would be welcome on that issue.

Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

I am most grateful for that clarification. I certainly will write to the noble Lord and copy it to other noble Lords who have participated in the debate. I will ensure that everybody who has participated in the debate is sighted on all the points that have been raised and discussed.

I hope that I have covered all the points that have been raised. They were various, relevant and germane. In so far as I have missed anything, I undertake to pick that up in my response.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, raised a point similar to that from the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, about the North Midlands. It is certainly open to the North Midlands to come forward with proposals on a devolution deal if it wishes to do so. If Bassetlaw and Chesterfield were to be part of the Sheffield city deal, they would obviously not be able to participate in both. It could involve parts of Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire in any North Midlands deal.

On one last point that I have not covered, the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, asked whether the £30 million for Sheffield—and, by implication, the £36.5 million for the West Midlands—was capital or revenue. I confirm that it is indeed both.

I will write to noble Lords on the points I have missed. I thank them very much for their participation in this debate, and beg to move.

Motion agreed.