Region needs pounds and powers to unlock potential


We in the Leeds City Region have spent many months working hard to put together an ambitious but highly credible bid and submitted our Strategic Economic Plan in March. However government has found that the £2bn pot of funding has been unexpectedly overbid by a wide margin. Regardless, I still expect the Leeds City Region to do better than many areas across the country given the strength of our bid and the size and scale of our economy.

The confidence I have in our plan reflects the region’s immense economic strengths and our belief that we are better placed than anywhere else to lead the UK’s rebalancing and deliver sustained growth and job creation. It is also a realistic plan built on decades worth of experience about what is needed to unlock the potential of the region, as well as consultation and partnership working with over 600 businesses, partners and politicians. Over the last few years, we have seen first-hand that investing in our businesses has a direct impact on economic growth. Although we are in a competitive bidding process, I genuinely believe this is our time for growth and that government ministers will recognise this too.

Clearly, the Pounds from government are important to delivering our vision, but there are two other P’s that are just as critical - Partnerships and Powers - and we’re already making great leaps forward on both of those.

Two weeks ago, I sat on a panel with the council leaders of Wakefield, Leeds, York and Calderdale at a business event to discuss the Combined Authority that was established in April as a result of the Leeds City Region City Deal. What struck me first of all was the level of interest in the event – with 150 businesses in attendance, this was a clear sign that business now recognises that future growth will only happen if the public and private sector combine together in a genuine partnership.

The second thing that struck me was the passion - and not just from the panel; we’re obviously passionate about growing the region or we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing - but from the audience. In the true Yorkshire spirit I’ve come to expect, there was lively debate, some challenging questions and lots of energy and enthusiasm for improving our economy. It was clear that, by working in partnership, the region will be better placed than ever before to bang the drum for further devolution and the Combined Authority is a key driver as we move forward with this agenda.

As a member of the Combined Authority, representing the private sector, I recognise that the Leeds City Region is not a “one size fits all” region. Having the freedom to take control of funding decisions will enable us to unlock the unique growth potential of our region. Last week, the IPPR think tank published a report calling on the government to further devolve powers and funding to our Combined Authority to ensure that local decisions on transport and economic investment are taken by local people who understand the needs of residents and businesses in the region.

And that leads me to another ‘P’ – Potential. Whatever the outcome of our Local Growth Deal in July, there is no denying the potential of the Leeds City Region as an economic powerhouse – and the LEP is committed to doing all it can to unlock that potential. I am confident that our Strategic Economic Plan is what is needed to accelerate growth and make the City Region a net contributor to the public purse and we will explore the full range of investment opportunities available to us in order to deliver its entirety. We are sure that with the Pounds, Partnership and Powers we will be able to realise our Potential and we are poised to seize this opportunity.

An edited version of this article can be found on the Yorkshire Post website.