Agenda item

Public Questions and Statements

Members of the public may ask questions or make statements at this meeting if they

have given notice and provided the text to Daniel Harry of Democratic Services (contact details below) no later than 12noon on Wednesday 8 March 2023. Each speaker should limit themselves to 3 minutes on any item.


Members of the public who have given notice will be invited to speak:-


·         at this point in the meeting if their questions/statements relate to matters which are not otherwise on the Agenda (subject to an overall time limit of 30 minutes); or

·         when the relevant Agenda item is being considered if they wish to speak on a matter which is on the Agenda for this meeting.


The following public question was read out by Anne Seex:


‘’Does this Committee recognise that it must operate within and uphold the law, including Section 100(D) of the Local Government Act 1972?


Section 100(D) requires that the ‘Proper Officer’ of a local authority must compile a list of background papers to a report to a council meeting. Both the list and the background papers must be made available for public inspection. Only documents or parts of documents that contain exempt information, as defined in the Act, can be withheld from the public.


Background papers are documents that ‘…disclose any facts or matters on which…the report or an important part of the report is based.’


Despite requests, no background papers have been made available for public inspection relating to the report to the November meeting ‘York and North Yorkshire Brownfield Housing Fund and Net Zero Fund.’


Is that because:


a) the report author did not bother to consult the statutory brownfield land registers maintained by the District Councils and the excellent report by the CPRE on availability of brownfield land for development;


b) this Joint Committee believes it can operate outside the laws that enable public scrutiny of its business?”


The following response was provided by Barry Khan, Assistant Chief Executive (Legal and Democratic Services), North Yorkshire County Council:


“Whilst we always look at ways to increase our transparency in decision making, I do not believe that the committee is operating outside of the law


Section 100(D) actually provides that the Council must publish what, in the opinion of the proper officer, documents that have been relied upon to a material extent to write the report, as background papers.


On 30th November, the Joint Committee considered a report from James Farrar with regard to the details of the two investment programmes that form part of the Devolution Deal.


The author of the report has confirmed that he did not rely on the Districts land registers nor the CPRE report in drafting his report. Further the law provides that any information that is classed as published works is not classed as background papers.


Therefore I am happy that the legislation has been complied on. With regard to transparency, the Committee had the report on the 30th November and today is discussing these two funds. There is a confidential part as they relate to bids that are commercially sensitive.


With regard to scrutiny,  the decisions of this committee can be called into either scrutiny committees of North Yorkshire County Council and the City of York. 


However, if there is specific information that is requested, we can respond to individual requests as appropriate.  Clearly the bids themselves are confidential and commercially sensitive.”


Anne Seex made brief statement arising out of the response to her initial question and re-iterated her concerns about the lack of reference being made to background papers in the reports to the committee meeting of 30 November 2023.


James Farrar, Chief Operating Officer, York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership outlined the process that had been undertaken with regard to writing the reports that had been considered at the meeting of the committee on 30 November 2022 and stated that discussions had taken place with a range of key stakeholders.


County Councillor George Jabbour asked the following question:


“Members of the Joint Devolution Committee are aware of the tremendous work that has been carried out to support York’s bid to become the location of the national headquarters of the new rail body, Great British Railways.


The campaign that the City of York Council has run is excellent.  I am also glad that we had a cross-party collective show of support outside County Hall in Northallerton, with councillors from the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrat and Liberal group, the Independents, Labour and the Greens, all gathering to back York’s bid.


I am grateful to the help we received last August from Councillors from York, East Riding and North Yorkshire outside the National Railway Museum to encourage visitors to vote for York during the public stage of the contest to choose the home of this new national rail organisation.


Given the significant boost to the local economy and the many other advantages that would ensue if York were chosen as the host of Great British Railways, the campaign would have been a key priority for York and North Yorkshire’s Mayor had the role of Mayor existed now.


It is likely that the decision about the location of GBR HQ will be made before the Mayoral election in York and North Yorkshire next May.


Therefore, I am wondering what more we can do now to ensure that York is successful in its bid to become the home of the new Great British Railways.”


James Farrar, Chief Operating Officer, York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership responded as follows:


“Thank you Councillor Jabbour. I wholeheartedly agree with you that York have run a strong campaign to become the location for the proposed Great British Rail headquarters. Importantly, alongside broad and cross party political support, City of York we also able to engage and secure support across industry, capitalising on the city’s existing Rail heritage, industry and innovation.


We are awaiting further clarification from Government on the status of Great British Rail and the head office location and the York working group is closely monitoring the situation. It is important that where there is an opportunity to press the York case further, it is done so in a co-ordinated and strategic manner. We continue to engage with the bid team at York to understand where we can further support the proposition and will ensure both York and North Yorkshire remain fully committed to landing the deal for the City.”


There was no supplementary question.