Agenda item - Chair's Communications
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22.1 The Chair provided the following Communications:
“This will be Peter Davies’ last meeting and, on behalf of the Board, I’d like to thank Peter for his invaluable contribution over the past 2 years. Peter is retiring at the end of March and I understand that Peter Webb may be joining the Board as the Coastal West Sussex Partnership’s representative. Peter is here today as an observer and so welcome Peter.
I want to take a moment to talk about the ongoing dispute between GTR/Southern and the ASLEF and RMT trades unions. Our devolution bid emphasises the need for an efficient and reliable transport network to grow our economy and boost productivity. Central to this is investment in the Brighton Main Line, to increase capacity and reliability in the long-term. We welcome the £20m fund and new Project Board that Chris Grayling MP – Secretary of State for Transport – recently created to introduce a package of quick win improvements on the line. However, we need Government to go further and to recognise the importance of this critical line when setting its priorities for investment in the national rail network. Performance has been particularly compromised in recent months, as a result of the ongoing dispute – now the longest running in over two decades. This is having a harming effect on our residents’ wellbeing and livelihoods, on our businesses and on investor confidence. I am delighted that fresh talks are underway and that a full service has recently been resumed. However, on behalf of the Board, I am intending to write to the Secretary of State after this meeting, to urge him to intervene and for Government to do all that it can to ensure that these talks are meaningful and that the relevant parties work together to resolve the dispute and move forward.
I’d also like to welcome Cath Goodall, our new Area Lead from the Cities and Local Growth Unit (seated next to Lynda Dine). Cath has replaced Phillip Carr, who has taken a promotion heading up the Ministerial Private Office Team in BEIS. On behalf of the Board, I’d like to thank Philip for his input and support. Before taking this role, Cath was the Area Lead for SELEP and we very much look forward to working with her on our growth agenda.
I’d like just to highlight that Government released its Green Paper on the modern Industrial Strategy on 23 January. I believe that Nick Hibberd will touch upon this in his Devolution update but wanted to advise the Board that I have tasked the Officer Programme Board with formally responding to the consultation, which closes on 17 April, on behalf of Greater Brighton.
We are also joined today by Cllr Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council. Welcome Peter. Welcome also to Jeff Alexander and Alison Addy, of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative and Gatwick Airport, who are here today present their growth priorities and discuss areas of common interest and joint work going forward. Our areas share challenges and opportunities and, by working collaboratively, we will strengthen our ability to tackle and maximise these to deliver significant economic growth. Our focus on the A23/M23 growth corridor – linking Brighton, Gatwick and London – provides a strong and compelling case for investment and presents a wealth of opportunities in relation to economic regeneration and employment, the benefits of which would flow across our region.
Other highlights are included in the Investment Programme Update Report but I wanted to bring to the Board’s attention that our website has gone live – www.greaterbrighton.com – and that the first meeting of our Strategic Property Board, Chaired by Geoff Raw, took place on 25 October, where its terms of reference were agreed. The Universities have made good progress on scoping the development of our Smart Growth Strategy and have produce a draft paper which is currently being considered by officers. I have asked that this is brought to the next meeting of the Board, which will also allow time for the paper to reflect the recent published Green Paper on the Industrial Strategy”.
22.2 Andrew Swayne supported the comments made by the Chair stating that the railway system required resolution for the benefit of the region and the Board should express that view clearly.
22.3 Councillor Morgan stated that he had in recent days put forward a proposal for a new body, comprising of councils and business representatives and working under the umbrella of Transport for the South East. The body would act in a statutory role recognised by the Department for Transport (DfT) and would award tenders and manage rail providers, giving passengers and residents a voice and would welcome support for the proposal from Board colleagues.
22.4 Prof. Humphris stated that the University of Sussex had expressed support for Councillor Morgan’s proposal adding that the current situation was having a detrimental impact upon the university.
22.5 John A. Peel stated that Jonathan Sharrock had communicated his support for the proposal and was willing to take a lead in progressing the issue.
22.6 Councillor Parkin expressed his support for the proposal adding that there should be more accountability on rail tenders.
22.7 Prof. Davies stated that the University of Sussex were also backing the proposals.
22.8 Dean Orgill stated whilst the proposal to solve the long-term issue was encouraging, he asked what was action was being taken in the short-term specifically whether sufficient pressure was being applied by the various local MP’s.
22.9 The Chair stated that he understood all three MP’s were working hard to find a resolution. The Chair asked whether the Board Members were in agreement that a short piece of work be undertaken demonstrating the economic impact of rail disruption in the Greater Brighton region and that be presented to the Board at their next meeting in April.
22.10 The Board were in agreement with the proposal.
22.11 Councillor Morgan asked that a report be brought to the next meeting outlining proposals for a potential ‘Rail South’.
22.12 The Board were in agreement with the proposal.