Venue: Committee Room A, Wellington House, 40-50 Wellington Street, Leeds
Contact: Khaled Berroum, Scrutiny Officer
Apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors James Baker, Helen Douglas, Peter Harrand and Paul Kane. Councillor Ashley Evans was in attendance as substitute for Councillor James Baker.
Declarations of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests
There were no declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests.
Possible exclusion of the press and public
There were no items requiring the exclusion of the press and public.
Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 18 January 2019 be approved.
The Chair informed the committee that:
· She had advised the Combined Authority on the adoption of a new conflicts of interest policy and protocol that would cover the resolution of conflicts including those arising from LEP board and panel members applying for LEP business grants and loans. Previously, the policy required the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny to be consulted when conflicts on LEP grants arose.
· The Leeds City Region LEP and the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding LEP were not yet in a position to put forward final recommendations to their respective boards regarding the creation of a new LEP. Discussions are still ongoing regarding decision making structures, secretariat and officer support functions, accountable body and legal personality.
· The ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution proposal put forth by 18 of the region’s council leaders last year had been rejected by the government. The leaders are due to meet with ministers later this year to discuss a new way forward.
Members expressed frustration and disappointment with the reported developments on devolution. They expressed concern that the continuing absence of a deal will mean that the region will continue to miss out on needed funding and fall further behind other regions with devolution in place.
Resolved: That the Chair's update be noted.
The Committee considered a joint report of the Director of Transport Services and Director of Policy, Strategy and Communications providing an overview of strategic transport priorities. The following were in attendance for this item:
· Councillor Kim Groves, Chair of Transport Committee
· Dave Pearson, Director of Transport Services
· Alan Reiss, Director of Policy, Strategy and Communications
Members expressed concern about reports that planned changes to Combined Authority guidelines for the provision of school bus services would lead to a reduction in services that many students and communities rely on. Some Members informed the Committee that they and many of their constituents had not been aware of the plans or the consultation until hearing about it on the news. The Committee was informed and assured that:
· The reduction in the transport levy paid by the West Yorkshire councils had created a challenge for the Transport Committee to find efficiency savings without affecting progress towards strategic aims.
· The draft guidelines were approved by Transport Committee in May 2018 pending consultation. The consultation was still underway and is expected that the Transport Committee will review the feedback in May 2019 prior to setting new guidelines.
· The Combined Authority would take a pragmatic approach and consider all options, as an increase in car use and road traffic was contrary to strategic transport aims.
· The consultation on Combined Authority school bus service guidelines would not affect existing criteria set by district councils, who currently determine eligibility criteria for some support schemes.
The Committee discussed the challenge of connecting communities, ensuring that services are customer focused and linking housing, employment and transport policy more effectively. It was reported that:
· The Combined Authority supported the establishment of the Bus Alliance which would provide the Transport Committee with a forum to tackle issues of mutual concern, such as connectivity, and foster greater cooperation between stakeholders in this area.
· It is understood by all partners that current connectivity links could be improved and that there was a lot of work to do.
· The Bus Alliance’s number one priority is to consider different, possible models to redesign bus operations to better deliver services to, and connect, all communities.
· There is a challenge in bringing bus operators together in the context of existing legislation on bus deregulation and the absence of devolved powers with regards to bus franchising and services which limits the possible models that can be considered.
· The efficiency savings required by the reduction in the transport levy paid by the West Yorkshire councils had created an additional challenge as this necessitates a reduction in services funded by the Combined Authority.
· The Transport Committee is currently considering reviewing the format of its District Consultation Sub-Committees (one for each district) in order to improve the interface it provides between public transport users and transport operators.
In other strategic transport work, the Committee learned that:
· The Rail Forum and Bus Alliance – both overseen by the Transport Committee – aim to share information to ensure that disruptions to service use arising from ... view the full minutes text for item 52.
The Committee considered a report of the Executive Head of Economic Services providing a follow up to the business grants item considered by the Committee on 14 September 2018. The report included:
· a performance analysis of the first six months of inclusive growth criteria for the Business Growth Programme (BGP),
· an assessment of the implications of extending inclusive growth criteria to all business grants programmes and;
· the proposed options for new core and inclusive growth criteria (appended to the report) for the Committee’s consideration.
· an update on implementation of the Committee’s other recommendations, suggestions and ideas on business grants put forward at the 14 September 2018 committee meeting.
The following were in attendance for this item:
· Ben Still, Managing Director
· Henry Rigg, Head of Business Support
Following questions, the Committee discussed:
· How the current policy within the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers (AGE) scheme to promote higher wages for apprenticeships than the legal minimum and not penalise young people was welcome.
· The importance of helping to combat the trend of apprentices being used as cheap, menial labour and protect apprenticeships as valuable alternative learning opportunities that lead to meaningful, long term work as a primary outcome.
· That further work may be needed to analyse the profile of the businesses currently applying for and receiving grants to ensure that the right businesses, with the right practices and circumstances, are being captured by the grant programmes and allow any gaps to be remedied in future programmes.
The Committee requested additional information on:
· How many grants have been given and jobs pledged for the Digital Inward Investment Fund since the publication of papers.
· How many of the apprenticeships currently on the AGE programme are higher level apprenticeships and how many apprenticeships on the previous iteration of the AGE programme ( 2015-17) were higher level apprenticeships.
Regarding the new proposed inclusive growth criteria for business grants due for consideration at the LEP Board meeting on 26 March 2019, the Committee concluded that the LEP should consider the following recommendations:
1. The Committee’s previous recommendation that inclusive growth criteria should be extended to all current and future business grant programmes at all grant award levels be maintained.
2. In order not to discourage some businesses from applying because the real living wage requirement is too difficult, an additional programme of support and assistance could be put in place to help applicants rise to a level where they are able to meet the necessary wage requirement (within a certain time period). Another option is offering a reduced grant or withholding the full amount to applicants unable to meet the real living wage requirement (within a certain time period).
3. In order to better support small businesses, the commitment to "pay all suppliers within 30-60 days" should be significantly strengthened and the required timescale be reviewed with a view to reducing it if possible. It was noted that some partner councils have adopted two weeks as the maximum payment window.
4. Although a reduction in the ... view the full minutes text for item 53.
The Committee received a report of the Scrutiny Officer outlining the Scrutiny Work Programme for the 2018/19 municipal year. A revised version of section 3.8 (“Scrutiny”) of the assurance framework, drafted by Scrutiny’s LEP working group, outlining a new process for pre-decision scrutiny was also appended to the report for agreement.
The Committee requested that:
· Due consideration be given to the importance of the energy strategy and work relating to alleviating fuel poverty in the scrutiny work programme.
· The Combined Authority and LEP make available to scrutiny a longer term forward plan so scrutiny can better maintain an overview of key work and decision timescales so that scrutiny can better decide which decisions, policies and strategies to scrutinise further.
· Key decisions be published as soon as they are known to be key decisions and not only at the 28 day statutory minimum.
· There be a greater follow up on issues scrutiny has considered in the past to ensure the committee is kept briefed on progress and developments and to allow scrutiny to more formally monitor the implementation of recommendations made by scrutiny.
In response, the Committee was informed that while projects often have shifting and tentative timescales, work was underway to improve the processes by which project development is reported to scrutiny. Members of scrutiny’s LEP working group are due to review examples of project documentation from different development stages so members can assess where scrutiny can best add additionality. The Working Group also reported the progress of their ongoing work in developing a process to engage more closely with the assurance process and strengthen pre-decision scrutiny of projects.
The Chair informed members that the Combined Authority’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT) has been asked to support scrutiny’s work programming next year by outlining key pieces of work and significant decisions planned or expected in the 2019/20 municipal year. It was also suggested that 2019/20 work programming take place in a workshop setting to give members more time to form the Committee’s work going forward.
The Chair noted that some members were standing down as Councillors at the upcoming local elections. The Committee thanked them for their contribution to the Committee’s work over the years and wished them the best going forwarded. Members and substitutes standing down were Councillors Helen Douglas, Tina Funnell, Marielle O’Neill, Anne Reid and Sam Lisle.
i) That the agenda forward plan and scrutiny work programme for the 2018/19 municipal year as outlined in Appendix 1 be noted.
ii) That the changes in membership and substitute arrangements highlighted in 2.24 be noted.
iii) That the Committee's feedback and requests be considered further and reported back.
iv) That the LEP scrutiny working group’s proposed wording for Section 3.8 (entitled: “Scrutiny”) of the Assurance Framework (Appendix 2) be supported and approved.
Date of the next meeting - 24 May 2019