I wrote last week about devolution, and have been reflecting on my comments – particularly as some councils and councillors have become distracted by the notion of a directly elected Mayor, rather than whether the offer presents a good deal for the city.
You might remember the Regional Development Agencies, set up under Labour, that were later abolished by the coalition government. Those agencies had no democratic control, and appointments were made by government to key roles within them, including Chairman. Many of the Councillors now complaining about a directly elected Mayor also complained about the lack of democracy in those agencies.
In the current scenario, a Mayor of a Combined Authority would be elected by residents in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. This Council keeps its sovereignty intact and has to consent to any of its powers being given to the Mayor. In the government’s offer, most of the Mayor’s proposed powers will come from government, as the term devolution implies.
Some have called for an extraordinary meeting. That is in the hands of the Mayor and our legal officer, as proper advice must be sought on whether a meeting can be held during the pre-election period known as purdah.
My plea is this. Let’s have a proper and fully informed debate about the offer from government, based on the facts. Even more importantly, let’s allow Peterborough residents, business and all other vital Peterborough organisations to be consulted and have a say on whether or not this offer is right for the city.