Q&A – Devolution

1. What is the background to the Combined Authority?

In Autumn 2014, a formal consultation was carried out on proposals for a Tees Valley Combined Authority by all five local authorities. In May 2015, the five authorities, along with Tees Valley Unlimited (the Local Enterprise Partnership) submitted a Governance Review to the Department of Communities and Local Government which set out the results of the consultation and our rationale for wanting to establish a Combined Authority. Under the legislation, the Secretary of State was also obliged to carry out his own consultation which was done in Autumn 2015. All five local authorities formally considered the proposal to form a Tees Valley Combined Authority and voted in favour of the proposal.

The Draft Tees Valley Combined Authority Order 2016 was laid on 11 February 2016 and required an affirmative resolution in both Houses in order to pass through Parliament. It was debated by the House of Commons Committee on 15 March 2016 and approved; and debated and approved by the House of Lords on 23 March 2016. If all goes to plan, the Combined Authority will have its inaugural meeting on 4 April 2016 at Teesside University.

2. What is the difference between the Combined Authority and devolution?

A Combined Authority is a statutory body created to formalise joint working and decision-making between councils in order to accelerate economic growth. Devolution is a process that transfers powers and funding from central government to a sub-regional body so that local factors are better recognised in decision-making.

3. Would the Combined Authority be a return to the old Cleveland County Council?

No. The Combined Authority is not another version of Cleveland County Council - the five Tees Valley Councils will continue to exist in their own right delivering local services but unite as a formal Tees Valley Combined Authority to focus on economic development, transport, infrastructure and skills. Much of this work is currently carried out by Tees Valley Unlimited, which works successfully in partnership with business. The LEP aims to create 25,000 jobs, an £1billion extra GVA by 2022, increase the number of enterprises by 3,200 and increase the number of residents achieving NVQ Level 3 and Level 4 by 14,500. It has already secured £104m from the Government's Local Growth Fund to support economic growth in the area.

4. How would the Combined Authority work with the LEP?

The Combined Authority will work hand in glove with the LEP. All staff working in the LEP will transfer across to the Combined Authority.

5. Will having a Combined Authority cost any more?

The five local authorities already jointly fund Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU), which works on behalf of the whole Tees Valley. The structure that is being developed for the Combined Authority is similar to the existing structure of TVU. We are required to have some additional functions in a Combined Authority to meet legislative requirements (e.g. a Section 151 Officer, for financial purposes) but we already have such functions and responsibilities in local authorities now so we will work to share these with the Combined Authority where we can at little or no extra cost. We expect any additional running costs to be minimal compared to the financial benefits we could gain from having a Combined Authority. However we need to ensure that we have the appropriate resources to play our part in emerging agendas that will benefit the Tees Valley economy in the future, for example Transport for the North and the bid for the City of Culture 2025.

6. How will the Combined Authority work in practice?

The Combined Authority is a statutory body, and will have its own constitution. Underneath it will sit a number of committees to focus on specific issues for example, transport, audit and governance, and scrutiny. Membership of these committees will be decided at the AGM. The mechanics will be very similar to how a local authority works, however the Combined Authority will focus on issues at a Tees Valley wide level. The Chair of the LEP will also be a Member of the Combined Authority, and other members of the LEP will be Associate Members.

7. What would the benefits be to the Tees Valley of having a Combined Authority?

The Combined Authority would be able to make decisions on strategic transport and infrastructure, employment and skills, economic development, business investment and low carbon at a Tees Valley level, with the local authorities and private sector being represented in the decision making process. A Combined Authority would also strengthen partnership working and would attract increased funding from central government that we can control locally here in the Tees Valley.

8. How does the Combined Authority relate to devolution?

One of the possibilities with having a Combined Authority is that it could in future act as a body to receive devolved powers from Whitehall.

On 23 October 2015 the five Tees Valley leaders and the Chair of the LEP signed an “in principle” devolution agreement with the Government and this was approved by each of the councils. We are still continuing to negotiate on the detail of the deal initially agreed with government. The decision to move from a Combined Authority to a Mayoral Combined Authority depends on the outcome of those negotiations.