Agenda item

Report from Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA)


The Leader introduced the report and highlighted that even though he was the Chair of ASELA, he was presenting the report in his capacity as Leader of Thurrock Council. He explained that three years ago, local authorities across South Essex had joined together to form ASELA to be able to work together to provide better services and infrastructure for all residents. He described how all participatory authorities had signed a Memorandum of Understanding which set out their intentions and highlighted that each Council maintained their own sovereignty, particularly on issues such as planning and finances. He stated that all decisions made at ASELA had to be unanimous and they had already managed to bring forward good projects, such as the £400m central government grant for Local Full Fibre Networks. He commented that ASELA had also created an economic plan and identified their strategic priorities.

The Leader moved onto describing the report and outlined how it was a proposition to submit to central government, which would help increase prosperity for residents and business owners across South Essex, and would increase long term investment opportunities. He stated that by working together, the local authorities could complete projects that would benefit each other, such as three lanes along the length of the A13, and improvements on the A127. He stated that although the A127 did not run directly through Thurrock, the improvement on this road would have a knock-on effect for the A13 and local road networks. The Leader mentioned that ASELA also helped deliver national projects and objectives, such as the implementation of nationwide 5G. He stated that the growth and recovery prospectus at Enclosure 2 outlined what ASELA wanted to achieve, including 100,000 new jobs by 2050, COVID-19 recovery, a carbon zero region by 2040, and 5000 new opportunities for 16-24 year olds. He stated that ASELA were not currently at the stage of presenting a report on governance, and had not decided on a particular model, but confirmed that each authority would maintain its sovereignty. He stated that the report would be agreed by each individual Council, before being presented to ministers and civil servants in Whitehall. He explained that the government was expected to announce the new devolution deal in autumn 2020, when ASELA’s prospectus would also be announced, and the Leader hoped this would bring new opportunities to the region.

Councillor Coxshall stated that this report was in its early stages, but felt it was good to have a regional voice that central government would listen to. He commented that he was a part of an outside body tasked with looking at infrastructure across the East of England, from the Thames to Norfolk, and felt that these types of partnerships would mean they were taken seriously as sub-regional consultees. Councillor Johnson felt this was a positive report, but highlighted the five options that were being put forward for exploration on page 132 of the agenda. He stated that he did not like the option for a local development corporation, as one had been implemented in Thurrock between 2004 and 2012, and felt they had caused numerous problems, particularly in South Ockendon. The Leader stated that the report had to outline all options for consideration, and they were not at the decision phase yet, but he shared Councillor Johnson’s concerns regarding a development corporation. Councillor Coxshall agreed that he was not supportive of a development corporation.

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

1. Noted ASELAs intention to immediately engage with central government ahead of the autumn Spending Review, regarding the economic agenda for the South Essex region, how it can deliver new jobs, new transport infrastructure, new homes, and the future governance arrangements to deliver better outcomes for its existing, and new, residents and businesses as set out in the ‘Growth and Recovery Prospectus 2020’ as Enclosure no. 2.

2. Noted the work commenced by ASELA to begin to consider and explore the most appropriate and effective future governance arrangements to realise South Essex’s full economic and social potential and shared ambitions as set out in the independent Review of Governance in South Essex at Enclosure No. 3. This report does not seek approval or endorsement of any specific governance proposals.

3. Noted that a further report will be presented later in the calendar year to provide an update on the outcome of the discussions with central government and any proposals for more formal interim governance arrangements for ASELA to ensure transparency and accountability.

The Leader ended the meeting and passed on his condolences to the family and friends of Barry Palmer, former Mayor of Thurrock. He stated that Mr Palmer had been his mentor and a stalwart of Thurrock, and had felt sad when he had learned of his passing.

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