Business Leaders urge Chancellor to "complete a missing piece in the Northern Powerhouse"

Ahead of the Budget, over 60 business, further and higher education leaders have signed an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for a devolution deal for the Leeds City Region declaring it as the “only pragmatic solution.”

The signatories - including the Presidents of Leeds, Bradford and Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, the EEF, ASDA and Yorkshire Building Society - have all pledged their support for a Leeds City Region deal and urged the Chancellor to signal progress in the budget speech tomorrow. Pledges of support range from local small and medium sized companies to multinationals, Universities, FE Colleges and business representative groups and support from the full breadth of the City Region geography.

A potential Leeds City Region devolution deal is on the table and focuses on faster economic growth and more jobs for local people, improved and more affordable transport and housing, more control of government funding to spend where it’s really needed and ensuring the City Region has the right flood prevention measures. Ultimately the proposed deal ensures that decisions on the issues that matter locally, are made by people in the City Region who best understand them.

The letter explains that a City Region deal is an important step towards more comprehensive devolution in Yorkshire, enabling 75% of the regional economy currently without devolution to have access to the benefits it presents quickly, with those benefits extending to the whole of the region as other proposals advance further.

The letter states that “As northern business and education leaders, we have major concerns about the continued absence of a meaningful devolution deal for such a significant economic area with a core city at its heart. We believe that further delays in securing such a deal would be to the detriment of jobs, growth and business investment, not just in our region but across the North and beyond”

It ends by confirming “the only pragmatic solution that could be implemented within a reasonable timescale is, in our view, a deal for the Leeds City Region, followed by others as soon as practicably possible. If more can be achieved, so much the better – but it does not make sense to delay progress in such a large part of the region.”

LEP Chair, Roger Marsh OBE said: “If our region wants to see progress soon, the only immediate option is a Leeds City Region deal. The other proposed solutions are not workable, certainly not within the 2017 timescale that Manchester, Sheffield and others are working towards. We are supportive of other deals following as quickly as possible, with the appropriate collaborative links on issues such as culture, sport and tourism.

“However, if a City Region deal isn’t agreed swiftly, not only will the whole of Yorkshire continue to miss out, but also the North and the nation.

“Our message to the Chancellor is simple - give us the tools and we can continue to deliver.”

The full letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with all business and education leaders’ signatories can be found on the LEP website here.