Over 60 local businesses and education leaders have described the Leeds City Region-based devolution deal being pursued by West Yorkshire Council Leaders as the “only pragmatic solution.”
In the letter, the signatories who include the Presidents of Leeds, Bradford and Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, the EEF, ASDA and Yorkshire Building Society pledge their support for a Leeds City Region deal. They urge the Chancellor to signal progress in the budget speech on Wednesday 16 March.
Pledges of support range from local small and medium sized companies to multinationals, Universities, FE Colleges and business representative groups and cover the City Region geography.
The proposed Leeds City Region devolution deal focuses on faster economic growth and more jobs for local people. Improved and more affordable transport and housing, more control of government funding and flood prevention measures are also among the proposals.
The letter states, “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.”
Writing in the Yorkshire Post last week, Bradford Council Leader and Combined Authority member Cllr David Green said: “The Leaders of West Yorkshire Local Authorities have been clear from day one that if the Government was to pursue the logic of its own economic agenda then the City Region geography is the only one that makes sense.”
“We have already seen the benefits that we have been able to achieve through the limited devolution we have received as a LEP and WYCA. This has given us the ability to target resources at local businesses to assist growth in the regional economy and employment opportunities, invest in infrastructure projects that meet the needs of the local business community and our population, and continue to improve the level of skills in our community to meet the needs of both existing and new businesses in Leeds City Region.
“Through the actions of the regional bodies, working with each Local Authority, we have achieved some of the lowest rates of young people not in education, employment or training in the country. The cost per job of our investment is one of the lowest in the country and is significantly lower than any national scheme.”
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 can be found on the LEP website (opens in new window).