Response to story in The Yorkshire Post
The West Yorkshire Combined Authority welcomes public interest and scrutiny however it is equally important to respond to scrutiny with facts. As a publicly-funded and transparent organisation we are happy to make the following clear:
Transparency and accountability
WYCA is an open and transparent organisation. The Yorkshire Post posed over 200 separate inquiries over four months at a considerable financial cost to a taxpayer-funded body. Each one of these questions was answered. Meetings of the Combined Authority, its committees and the Local Enterprise Partnership are held in public and the documents considered at those meetings published online.
There is no “pending £4m shortfall” in the Combined Authority’s budget. Read in full, the internal blog written by WYCA Managing Director Ben Still quoted by The Yorkshire Post makes clear that our processes had identified and addressed a potential budget issue. The Combined Authority will set its budget for 2017/18 in February. The draft budget was published at the Combined Authority meeting, held in public, last Thursday.
There is not a recruitment freeze. WYCA is recruiting and replacing staff according to its normal processes. Our staff are delivering, including the opening of three rail stations in the last 16 months, the Wakefield Eastern Relief Road, the Bradford-to-Leeds Cycle Superhighway and extensive investment in further education college facilities. Delivery of the £1 billion growth deal continues with pace.
Attracting businesses to this region is a critical part of our work to grow this region’s economy faster. This cannot be done from behind a desk in West Yorkshire. This requires attendance at carefully selected events overseas and our spending in this area is modest compared to many other regions. Our attendance at MIPIM is wholeheartedly supported by the region’s private sector which provides the majority of the funding. WYCA repeatedly made clear to The Yorkshire Post that aside from the stand and exhibition space at MIPIM, all other costs are covered by private sector sponsorship. Our impact in this area was confirmed by EY’s 2017 ‘UK Attractiveness Survey’ which recognised this region as the North’s leading destination for Foreign Direct Investment. Our attendance at MIPIM has generated more than 430 inward investment queries over the last five years.
LEP Chair Appointment and Remuneration
Roger Marsh OBE was selected as LEP Chair in 2013 following a competitive process. He is widely respected among the region’s business community and played a critical role in securing a £1bn Growth Deal with the Government. He has worked diligently for the region, frequently working in excess of the 12 days a month set out in his terms and fulfilling other related but unpaid duties.
Salaries and Headcount
WYCA’s recruitment of staff reflects the level of expertise required to devise and deliver the complex projects in order to deliver our plan to create 36,000 jobs over the next 20 years. As part of the process of bringing other organisations together to form WYCA a number of staff have also moved on.
In common with other successful organisations, WYCA invests in its staff to ensure they have the skills required to secure the funding this region needs to fulfil its economic ambitions and to manage the complex projects for which the organisation is responsible.
After bringing a number of organisations together to form the Combined Authority, a rebranding exercise was necessary. It was made clear to The Yorkshire Post that this process has not been “aborted”. A proposal to rename the organisation was not taken forward but the remainder is being implemented in a process that will generate considerable financial savings which are conservatively estimated at £20,000 annually.
The Council of the North in partnership with ResPublica had to be postponed in the light of the decision to call a General Election. An event will be delivered in 2018.