Driving the devolution debate in the Leeds City Region
By Roger Marsh, Chair of the LEP
All eyes are currently turned north of the border in anticipation of this Thursday’s Scottish referendum on independence.
Whatever the outcome of that historic poll, people across the land are increasingly wanting much more of a local say in the key decisions that affect their lives and prosperity. As my colleague and Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Cllr Peter Box, recently stated: “The genie is out of the bottle.”
In the run up to the General Election, this great devolution debate will only continue to gather pace and it is important that this City Region is setting the terms of this important debate.
Despite all the rhetoric of rebalancing the economy, it is a truth universally accepted that the North has historically been short-changed when it comes to central government investment. But those walking the corridors of power finally seem to have woken up to the simple fact that if the Northern economy grows, so does the nation.
Groundbreaking city deals for the Northern core cities and their LEPs in 2012 were the first visible step in this journey, followed two years later by the local growth deals for all 39 LEPs. Northern LEPs scooped a significant share of Local Growth Fund cash – not least the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, which secured an overall £1bn deal, the biggest in the country. These types of deal must however be just the starting point in a long-term shift of powers and pounds from the centre to city regions.
Noises from all three main parties suggest that the centre acknowledges that the North holds the key to future sustainable growth. Subtly, the terms of our dialogue have changed. For many years we have knocked at the door of government to call for greater support to unlock our City Region’s potential. But now, the door appears ajar and we have a chance to put forward our region’s case for better, more sustainable growth. This opportunity, offered by all of the main political parties in different guises, presents a chance to shape the future of the North in a mould set by the people of the North, not by Whitehall - an opportunity not to be missed.
A nationally-led, “one size fits all” approach has not worked. Decisions taken locally, influenced by people living and working locally would ensure that measures to deliver economic growth and jobs here are in line with the priorities for our area.
Working with our Northern neighbours is fundamental to unlocking the potential of this City Region. We need to look at pan-northern strategic infrastructure and transport requirements, working with all of our partners and neighbours on visionary proposals such as HS3. We need to ensure that this debate looks further than just the current political cycle, and aligns with the priorities we have acknowledged in our Strategic Economic Plan over the next 20 years.
Importantly however, there is a need to look inwards to succeed. We must invest in our own economy, infrastructure and workforce to ensure that we have the tools to compete nationally and internationally. The City Region’s economic output of £56bn is larger than 9 EU countries; the output of the North (£266bn) is 2.5 times that of Scotland. We must take steps to ensure this vast economic potential is fully unleashed.
We are determined to seize this opportunity to shape the North’s, and our City Region’s, future. Our Strategic Economic Plan gives us a firm basis to put forward an ambitions response to the government’s call. However, to help us put forward the strongest case for why it’s the North’s time for growth, we want to hear your views on what would help your business or your local area to thrive. Let us have your views via Twitter, Linked In or by emailing us at LCR@leedscityregion.gov.uk
Scotland may be the catalyst to the devolution debate, but the Leeds City Region has the potential to be the engine driving growth in the north and to help us shape the future of our region, we encourage you to join the conversation. Follow us @LeedsCityRegion
Leeds City Region - economic potential ready to be unleashed
- The City Region’s economic output of £56bn is larger than 9 EU countries (Luxembourg, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Cyprus, Estonia, Malta)
- The output of the north is greater than the likes of Austria, Denmark and Ireland
- There are 198,000 businesses in Scotland, compared to 200,000 in Leeds City Region/Greater Manchester and 519,000 across the north.
- The total population of Leeds City Region and Greater Manchester is bigger than the whole of Scotland (5.7m versus 5.3m)
- Looking at the north as a whole the population is 15m, almost 3 times the size of Scotland. If this were a country, it would be the 9th largest in the EU.
An edited version of this article can be found in today's Yorkshire Post.