West Yorkshire Leaders reaffirm commitment to Leeds City Region Devolution Deal

Council and business leaders have today reaffirmed their commitment to pursuing a devolution deal with Government for the Leeds City Region – a geography that covers all of West Yorkshire along with York and the North Yorkshire districts of Harrogate, Craven and Selby.

Meeting today to clarify their position in relation to a devolution proposal for a much larger geography – which would include all of North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Humberside but not South Yorkshire – West Yorkshire’s five Council Leaders agreed that a City Region deal remained the best way of achieving economic benefits for local communities, residents and businesses.

Leaders maintained the view that the case in favour of a City Region approach is irrefutable. This view is based on a number of factors including the scale of the City Region economy as the UK’s largest economic centre outside of London, the track record of effective partnership working between City Region councils and businesses over a decade, and the strong economic rationale for working at this level.

Cllr Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council and Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said: “Government has made clear that this devolution process is about the economy and the economic evidence demonstrates overwhelmingly that the City Region – as the economic heart of Yorkshire – is the right geography to deliver on our huge ambitions to transform our economy for the benefit of millions of local people.

“A devolution deal at this level would also represent better value for the taxpayer by building on existing organisations such as the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and avoiding setting up a huge and costly new regional level structure at a time when the public sector is facing unprecedented budget cuts.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council said: “There is a very strong track record of effective partnership working between councils and businesses at the City Region level over the past 10 years. We are already proving that devolution to this level works – through our Devolved Youth Contract programme to name just one example, which has played an important role in reducing youth unemployment in our City Region at a much faster rate than the national average.

“We will continue to work alongside our Yorkshire neighbours on issues of regional significance as we did so spectacularly during last year’s Tour de France. At this point in time, however, a Leeds City Region devolution deal gives us the best chance of securing the tools to make our economic ambitions a reality, while bringing decision-making closer to local people and giving our region a strong voice in the Northern Powerhouse alongside Manchester and Sheffield.”

Roger Marsh, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “I’ve always been clear that the purpose of devolution is not to create new governance structures, it’s to create better economic outcomes for our City Region and its citizens – enabling us to realise our ambitious plan for extraordinary economic growth quicker, for the benefit of the North and indeed the country.

“As a businessman, my approach is to build on what works, and our City Region partnerships clearly work. There is an exceptional level of trust and collaboration between our civic leaders and between the public and private sectors, which has enabled us to achieve great things already – not least the country’s largest Growth Deal, agreed with Government last summer. The case for continuing to work at this level to secure a devolution deal that would help us achieve the full extent of our ambition is compelling and unignorable. By continuing to focus on structures rather than outcomes we risk letting the governance tail wag the economic dog, which could result in the most important opportunity in a generation slipping through our fingers.”

The West Yorkshire Leaders submitted a devolution proposal to Government on 4 September, setting out a series of 27 asks to achieve the transformative ambitions of the Leeds City Region Strategic Economic Plan. These asks include greater powers to raise and direct funding towards those areas that would have the biggest impact on economic growth and people’s lives, such as major transport and infrastructure schemes, housing and regeneration developments, and support for skills and business growth.

Discussions are continuing with the Treasury about a potential devolution deal based on these asks.

The Leeds City Region is the largest economic area outside of London, home to 2.8 million people and responsible for generating £57.7bn in economic output each year. It is an economic geography that reflects the way the economy really functions – including the way businesses and supply chains operate, and the way that local residents travel to work and live their lives. 93% of people who live in the City Region also work in the City Region, demonstrating the strong economic links between the City Region districts.