Leaders miss West England meeting over governance issues

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Four board leaders did not attend a scheduled meeting of the West of England CA Committee and the West of England Joint Committee today, citing concerns over voting arrangements in the previous meetings.

The Combined Authority Committee and the Joint Committee – the latter includes the North Somerset Council as well as the three councils that are members of the Combined Authority – have held joint meetings together since early 2020.

Marvin Rees (Lab), Mayor of Bristol City Council, Kevin Guy (Lib Dem) Head of Council for Bath & North East Somerset and Toby Savage (Con), Head of Council for South Gloucestershire – all members of both committees – at alongside Donald Davies (Ind) the head of the North Somerset Council, who is only a member of the Joint Committee, previously asked West England Mayor Dan Norris (Lab) to postpone today’s meeting ‘hui.

The four leaders did not attend the meeting held at Bristol Town Hall this morning, leaving Mr Norris to continue without a quorum.

Speaking to LGC, Cllr Davies explained that while he could not speak for the leaders of the Combined Authority board, two issues have raised “great concern” about recent joint committee meetings.

He said Mr Norris used a two-vote veto at a recent joint committee meeting in September.

“There were a few four-to-one votes, but that of the mayor of Metro, and he exercised a veto,” he told LGC.

“Now he has all these powers in the West England Combined Authority, but he does not have them in the Joint Committee. These votes were both related to joint committee business.

“From my point of view, the difficulty I have then is that he is vetoing activity in North Somerset, and he is not elected by the people of North Somerset,” said Cllr Davies.

His second source of concern was what he described as the committee’s inability to “go through any sort of consensus-building and compromise process” due to a lack of clarity as to when the points on the agenda should be dealt with.

Cllr Davies asserted that some contentious issues are dealt with at a Committee of the Whole meeting, rather than at pre-agenda meetings, which creates confusion among committee members.

“It makes people who are trying to make decisions incredibly confusing, and clearly [also] for members of the public watching, ”he said.

The four leaders asked the mayor to postpone the meeting to November 5. However, a committee meeting was held this morning without the leadership.

“I just think it’s hopelessly unnecessary,” said Cllr Davies, “we have to make decisions and we have to move forward”.

Mr Norris and the West of England Combined Authority have been contacted by LGC for comment.

In a joint statement released last night, the four leaders said: “Our top priority for the region is to provide housing, jobs, skills and good transport links including communities and residents of western England need. “

“Unfortunately, leaders from the west of England are unable to attend the meeting scheduled for tomorrow due to continuing legal issues.”

“These unanswered questions or concerns relate to the governance of the joint committee, in particular the voting arrangements on which the policy is decided.”

“The West of England Joint Committee and Combined Authority meeting on October 15 will have to be rescheduled. We are working hard to resolve these issues and plan to hold the meeting on November 5th. “

Prior to January 2020, the Joint Committee and the Joint Committee met separately on the same day. In January, mayors and leaders agreed that the two committees should meet in joint meetings “to streamline arrangements and allow for more efficient meetings.”


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