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Friday, November 18, 2016

Peterborough City Councillors like a Turkey have just voted for Christmas...

Here’s 2 reasons why I think the Council is far from open or accountable … by Cllr Darren Fower

But back in the land of make believe, join us for our festive tale of the magic beans ......  and if you wish to debate the issue with a Councillor, a couple of them may be lurking around at the Heritage Park Primary School Park Farm Christmas Bazaar on Saturday 27th November from 1pm....

"Jack sold the faithful cow for a handful of magic beans..." Oh yes, he did!

This is an important week for those who can be bothered to follow what happens inside our Pizzaborough Town Hall, effectively the panto season has started.

For a pile of magic beans, Peterborough City Council has  effectively handed over control to a yet to be elected regional Mayor, and dazzled by a hypothetical set of numbers (which to a lay person immediately suggests the council is going to be bailed out with substantial new revenue streams) being devolved from Central Government.

Unfortunately no one seems to have read, and importantly, understood the small print or the 'riders to contract' bear in mind that the grandly named Airports Commission drilled through £20 million just to produce a limp 400 page report which it now turns out relied on data that was some 20 years out of date. .....

The 'pig in the poke' agreed by Peterborough City Council, effectively hands control of our affairs over to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority ( notice how, for cosmetic reasons, we are tagged on the end of Cambridgeshire) and we all now have to pay for the setting up of this bureaucratic monolith, the PCC is relegated to becoming a constituent member  ie one single vote in the new set up.  

Clause V is interesting and a master of the kind of double speak we have all endured over the introduction of Personal Independence Payments. Blinded by the fact that seemingly eyewatering sums of 'extra' public funding will be coming our way, to kick start all kinds of 'magical' inward investment programmes, seemingly no one has properly looked at the small print.

Clause V:  to recommend to the Combined Authority that the costs of establishing the Combined Authority, holding the elections in May 2017 and running the Combined Authority (including Mayoral Office) for 2016/17 and 2017/18 are funded from the gain share grant provided by Government (as outlined in para 12.11)      

In short it means that in exchange for 'additional' funding being released, we now have to use that money not for housing or the benefit of the City but to TOTALLY fund the establishment of the Combined Authority. This is a major expense and will certainly earmark a major element of the funding released by Central Government. 

We would suggest someone flicks back through the accounts of the outgoing Police Commissioner, Sir Graham ('Dimbut')Bright, and take a closer look at the public funds wasted just to physically set up his office, (possibly to suit his lifestyle?) rerouting secure police computer networks which has now been dismantled, and the PCC office now moved into police property in Huntingdon. Where it should have been in the first place.  

The second flaw in this nonsense is "authorise the Combined Authority to have a power to issue a levy to the constituent Councils in respect of any financial year" again the pot of gold from central government will be raided year on year to keep the Combined Authority going.

Bluntly no matter what they spend, there is no effective cap on expenditure, as the combined authority will have the power to issue 'a levy in ...respect of any financial year' there is no end date it could go on forever...  a new regionwide money pit...

But fear not we have a couple of 'Brains of Britain' voting on our behalf to manage the one single vote we have in this new all powerful Combined Authority. With respect Cllr. Holdich Leader of the Council, is a bit long in the tooth, to get his brain around this whole new byzantine multi-level layers of techno driven bureaucracy.  By the time its properly set up, Cllr Holdich would possibly be a prime candidate for one of the Councils own care homes - apart from the fact that Cllr Fitz. scrapped them all, and turfed out the long term residents, in their twilight years. 

Oh Cllr Fitzgerald is the second named 'Brain of Britain' on the list to represent our one single vote.

To be fair, the deal if you just read the executive summary it looks inviting, but in reality the devil is in the detail, yes additional funding is released, but equally an expensive regional monolith has to be continually financially primed  with resources and there seems to be no end date... magic beans!  

The council executive argue that if we don't sign up we will lose:

Funding for Housing development
·         Funding for Infrastructure growth
·         Additional powers to make decisions locally
·         Government commitment to work with Peterborough to develop Peterborough University and an Enterprise Zone

Simply it is another example of project fear, bear in mind this whole crazy project was a Cameron invention and hatched in the balmy pre 'Brexit' days. 

Realistically if we did lose all these 'benefits'  then central government would immediately collapse. There will always be funding for housing development and funding for infrastructure growth.

However 'the government   commitment to work with Peterborough to develop Peterborough University' will never ever happen in our lifetime, not with Cambridge academia being a key player in this Combined Authority. 

Also there is no commercial traction for an enterprise zone, we are zoned for the building of sheds, the revised routing of HS2 and HS2 has seen to that. Question why the route deliberately arcs around and well away from Peterborough?

In addition the media is deserting the City, during 2017 the BBC will close down the Peterborough office and possibly the local newspaper will move its newsroom to a hub operation several hundred miles from the City.

The so called Community TV station is never likely to happen, although one group is still soliciting for 'donations' To understand why it won't happen just read the latest Ofcom directives. 

The Combined Authority will see others who have not been supportive of Peterborough, tactically using their votes against anything we might try and do.   

The Cabinet agreed to:
(i)      consent to the Secretary of State making an Order to establish the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (Appendix A);
(ii)     consent to the Council being a constituent member of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority with effect from the commencement date determined by the final Order;
(iii)    authorise the Chief Executive, in consultation with the Leader of the Council, to consent to the final draft Order and associated documents, specifically:
-        to agree minor drafting amendments to the Combined Authority Order to be laid before Parliament;
-        to consent to the Council being included within the draft Parliamentary Order thereby reflecting this Council’s decision
(iv)    authorise the Combined Authority to have a power to issue a levy to the constituent Councils in respect of any financial year. (This will be subject to the inclusion of a unanimity clause in the Combined Authority constitution on this specific matter).
(v)     to recommend to the Combined Authority that the costs of establishing the Combined Authority, holding the elections in May 2017 and running the Combined Authority (including Mayoral Office) for 2016/17 and 2017/18 are funded from the gain share grant provided by Government (as outlined in para 12.11)
(vi)    appoint Councillor Holdich to act as Council's appointee to the Shadow Combined Authority and once established, to the Combined Authority;
(vii)   appoint Councillor Fitzgerald as Deputy Leader of the Council, to act as the substitute to the above (ref (vi));
(viii)  note the outcome of the public consultation on the establishment of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority as outlined in paragraph 5.1 and 5.2 and Appendices 2A - 2D;
(ix)    note the timetable for the implementation of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough devolution Order as summarised in paragraph 7.1;
(x)     note the Government's response to the outline business case for Housing capital investment funds secured as part of the devolution deal as set out in Appendix 3.       
(xi)    agree in principle, for a protocol requiring the Council Leader and the representative on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to report to each meeting of Council setting out the activities and decisions related to their respective roles within the Combined Authority.
(xii)   to request that the Member Officer Working Group develop the protocol through the Audit Committee with a view to inclusion of the protocol in the Council’s constitution.
*The Waive of call-in provision has been invoked on this decision. The reason being that the matter has been publically debated at the Full Council meeting of 17 November 2016.

Reasons for the decision:

To consult on a scheme for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area with a directly elected Mayor, in order to devolve powers from Government to a Combined Authority.
To bring additional new funding to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area with local decision making for these funds.

Alternative options considered:

The Governance Review considered a number of alternative options and concluded that the most appropriate option for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is to establish a Mayoral Combined Authority.
If the Combined Authority is not established the Council will lose the opportunities made available through the devolution agreement, including:
·         Funding for Housing development
·         Funding for Infrastructure growth
·         Additional powers to make decisions locally
·         Government commitment to work with Peterborough to develop a Peterborough University and an Enterprise Zone

Interests and Nature of Interests Declared:


Background Documents:

Council - 27 June 2016 Agenda Item No. 4 (including Statutory Governance Review, Devolution Proposal and Devolution Scheme)
Publication date: 17/11/2016
Date of decision: 17/11/2016
Accompanying Documents:
  • It is not anticipated that there will be any documents other than the report and relevant appendices to be published.

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ampoon (lampoon) Pronunciation: /lamˈpuːn/ verb [with object] publicly criticize (someone or something) by using ridicule, irony, or sarcasm: the actor was lampooned by the press noun a speech or text lampooning someone or something: the magazine fired at God, Royalty, and politicians, using cartoons and lampoons.

Derivatives: lampooner noun lampoonery noun lampoonist noun Origin: mid 17th century: from French lampon, said to be from lampons 'let us drink' (used as a refrain), from lamper 'gulp down', nasalized form of laper 'to lap (liquid).


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