Delivering our shared plan for growth

By Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and West Yorkshire Combined Authority

Growth is now firmly back on the agenda in West Yorkshire and Leeds City Region.

Business confidence is at an all-time high, the number of people in employment is well above pre-recession levels, and investment is booming with over £2.5bn of commercial development now in the pipeline.

And coming hot on the heels of a triumphant Grand D�part, the City Region has received strong national endorsement in the shape of a £1bn Growth Deal with government. This Deal – the biggest secured anywhere in the country – gives the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and West Yorkshire Combined Authority the tools to get to work on creating tens of thousands of jobs in the region and delivering 21st Century infrastructure to unlock further growth and investment.

The hard-won investment includes £573m over six years from the government’s Local Growth Fund to support growing businesses, boost skills, and kick-start strategic housing and development sites. Unlike anywhere else in the country, the Leeds City Region has also scooped major devolved investment for transport and, for the first time, decisions over how this will be spent will be taken locally by the Combined Authority instead of in Whitehall.

LEP Chair Roger Marsh hailed the Deal as a “game-changing moment”. But what does this new investment actually mean for businesses, residents and communities in the City Region, and when will work get underway?

Growth Deal: boosting businesses, skills, housing and development

Devolved funding secured through the City Region’s Growth Deal will enable the LEP, Combined Authority and other local partners to deliver a balanced programme of strategic investment over the next six years that will benefit the whole City Region. The impact of the Growth Deal will be felt within the next 12 months, with £73m of the £573m total pot earmarked for projects starting from April 2015. These include:

  • Grants for small businesses – The Growth Deal provides £18m to extend the LEP’s successful Business Growth Programme for a further three years, providing grant finance to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) realise growth ambitions that have put on hold due to difficulty of obtaining bank finance. 200 SMEs are expected to expand as a result, creating around 2,600 jobs.
  • Investment in further education colleges – Work by the LEP and its partner councils to develop skills and create job opportunities for young people receives a further boost from £74m Growth Deal investment to develop new and upgraded college facilities. The funding will help create world-class learning environments for the region’s young people, and support skills training and development in industry sectors that offer the best prospects for future growth.
  • A resource-efficient City Region – home to three coal-fired power stations, the Leeds City Region already generates one-sixth of the UK’s energy. Now, funding secured through the Growth Deal will allow the region to begin pioneering new local energy infrastructure, and build its international reputation in renewables and bioscience. Among the projects set to get underway in 2015 are an Energy Hub providing investment in early-stage energy infrastructure projects and a business support programme to help SMEs reduce energy costs and increase productivity. BioVale, a bio-waste innovation cluster in York supporting firms to develop commercially viable biotechnology, also shares in the windfall.
  • Kick-starting housing and development –strategic housing and development projects in Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield, York, Halifax, and Skipton will start on site next year as a result of Growth Deal support. Between them these sites will create almost 48,000 square metres of new commercial office space – the equivalent of seven Wembley football pitches – and around 1,500 new homes, including a significant proportion of affordable housing.

West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund: delivering 21st Century transport infrastructure

Alongside the Growth Deal, the LEP and West Yorkshire Combined Authority have also secured funding to establish a £1bn West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund to improve the City Region’s roads and railways.

Better transport connections are the lynchpin of both organisations’ shared economic plan, with improvements to the local transport network forecast to unlock billions of pounds of growth and create thousands of jobs.

A total of £600m - £30m a year from 2015 – 2035 – has been secured to deliver the Transport Fund. Together with £183m of other devolved transport funding and local contributions, this will produce an overall £1billion Transport Fund to connect people to jobs and goods to markets faster.

What’s more, the new powers secured through the Growth Deal give the Combined Authority the power to decide how this money is spent, ensuring investment is directed to those schemes offering the best opportunities for growth and jobs.

Specific local transport schemes will be assessed by the Combined Authority. Funding for major schemes already underway, such as New Generation Transport, Castleford Bus Station, Leeds Inner Ring Road, and Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge rail stations, remains in place as a separate part of the Growth Deal.

Both the LEP and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority are also committed to seizing the economic benefits of high-speed rail for the region. HS2 is expected to directly benefit Leeds City Region to the tune of £1bn a year in extra economic growth, and Transport Fund investment will ensure the key towns and cities in this large and diverse City Region have fast, efficient access to the high-speed network.

Going further and faster

Working in partnership, the Combined Authority and LEP will begin work immediately on delivering the Growth Deal as a key element of their plans for faster, sustained growth and a future of real prospects for local people and businesses.

Leaders of both organisations are clear, however, that this must be just the start of a longer term transfer of power from Whitehall to the region – allowing the North to take control of its own economic prosperity.

Cllr Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council and Chair of the Combined Authority commented: “This must be just the start of more powers and resources being localised. With the right infrastructure and investment, along with well-planned, sustainable skills training and job creation to support our push for growth, we can transform our economic potential into an economic powerhouse.”

Leeds City Region Growth Deal at a glance

The Growth Deal and West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund – alongside EU funding and other public and private investment – provide the pounds and powers to enable the LEP and Combined Authority deliver:

  • £5.2bn in additional economic output
  • 62,000 extra jobs
  • £675m in benefits savings by creating more, better quality jobs
  • £10 in economic growth in return for every £1 of taxpayer investment
  • A City Region that is a net contributor to the national economy

Growth Deal key facts

  • £573m devolved government funding from 2015 – 2021. The largest Growth Deal in the entire country.
  • £73m of that funding allocated for projects and programmes beginning in 2015/16
  • £30m per year for the next 20 years to support the creation of a £1bn West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund
  • £8m in 2015/16 (£18m in total) to extend the successful LEP Business Growth Programme, providing grants to businesses with ambitious growth plans.
  • £12m in 2015/16 (£74m in total) to invest in new and upgraded college facilities
  • £4.8m to develop a more resource-efficient City Region and help businesses boost their productivity by reducing energy costs
  • £8.4m to kickstart housing and development sites in Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield, York, Halifax and Skipton

West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund at a glance

A previously drawn up package of transformational transport schemes which met the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the LEP’s economic growth objectives is now being reviewed and refined in preparation for delivering the Transport fund. Schemes that could go ahead under the Transport Fund include:

  • Harrogate Road/New Line junction improvements (Bradford) to increase housing and employment opportunities in the area and improve links from Leeds Bradford International Airport
  • Caldervale rail line improvements (Calderdale) – to improve links to employment opportunities in Manchester, Halifax, Bradford and Leeds for communities along the route.
  • Cooper Bridge Junction (Kirklees) – to support housing and employment growth by tackling regular congestion and queuing traffic backing up to the M62
  • Aire Valley Leeds Enterprise Zone Park & Ride (Leeds) - to ease congestion and improve journeys between the city centre and the Cross Green employment area and improve bus services for the residents of Cross Green and Richmond Hill
  • Eastern Relief Road (Wakefield) – to boost job creation by providing direct access into the East Wakefield employment growth area for residents, and reducing congestion by creating a bypass to the city centre
  • Outer Ring Road Improvements (York) – to improve journey times and reliability for businesses, commuters and visitors by tackling significant congestion hotspots

An edited version of this article can be found in Autumn's edition of Yorkshire Vision.