Responding to today’s Budget statement West Yorkshire Combined Authority Chair Cllr Peter Box said: “This is a mixed budget containing what initially sounded like good news but on closer analysis falls short of what is actually needed.
“The £2bn the Chancellor announced for Social Care is not anywhere near enough to address the serious challenges that councils ranging from Yorkshire in the North to Surrey in the south are facing.
“While there is additional funding for our roads, it is not enough to cover the backlog of repairs that has built up due to years of under-funding. And although it is acknowledged that good transport underpins sustainable economic growth, the Chancellor is going to continue making authorities compete for additional transport funding, spending scarce resources drawing up, hopefully successful bids. We have been successful at doing this and will continue to seek investment in our transport infrastructure.
“I was pleased to see more devolution announced for the West Midlands and London, as an antidote to the hugely centralised governance of this country. However this good news is once again tempered by the Government’s continued attitude to Yorkshire, which sees our City Region being held to different standards than everywhere else.”
Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the Combined Authority’s Investment Committee said: “An important element of our Strategic Economic Plan is ensuring people have the specific skills required by local businesses so I was pleased the Chancellor has announced £40m to pilot retraining and life-long learning schemes.
“We will examine the detail but given Leeds City Region’s good track record of achieving better results through devolved, locally-managed training schemes than similar nationally-run initiatives, we should be a natural choice to take on one of these pilots and making it a success.
“However the ongoing lack of funding for social care that might come close to matching the demand and the lack of a devolution deal for our region urgently needs to be addressed. In a Budget statement in which the Northern Powerhouse was mentioned only once, and the Chancellor confirmed the government’s ongoing austerity for local government it seems to be a Budget that could have delivered so much more.”
Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said: “There are some welcome announcements for Leeds City Region businesses in the Government’s last ever Spring Budget.
“With transport consistently mentioned by business in our region as one of their main priorities to support future growth and productivity, the additional £90m announced today to address congestion hotspots in the North is encouraging – although this is unlikely to be enough to address the full extent of businesses’ concerns.
“As the home of the country’s largest concentration of universities outside the capital, Leeds City Region should be well placed to benefit from the announced £270m Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to boost research and innovation. It is a pity however that there wasn’t more focus in this Budget on the significant role the North has to play in delivering the Industrial Strategy.
“Although the continued focus on devolution in the Chancellor’s speech is welcome I remain deeply concerned that, a year after I and 65 other business leaders wrote to Mr Hammond’s predecessor requesting an urgent resolution to the impasse in agreeing a devolution deal for Leeds City Region, our area – the UK’s largest city region economy and workforce and the biggest economic contributor to the Northern Powerhouse – is still being denied the same opportunities for devolution as other major northern city regions.
“This is particularly perplexing given the emphasis in the Industrial Strategy on driving growth across the whole country. It will be to the detriment of the whole country if city regions like Leeds City Region are not empowered to play their full role in driving economic growth and productivity, especially as the UK begins its exit from the European Union.”