The West Yorkshire Combined Authority has agreed a
devolution deal with government, giving council leaders and businesses greater
influence over investment decisions on skills, transport, housing and support
for small businesses.
As a result of the agreement announced today the Combined
Authority, working with the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP),
will address skills shortages in key industry sectors and ensure that skills
provision is driven by the needs of businesses through greater influence over
local further education budgets and courses. They will also have greater
flexibility to encourage more small businesses to take on an apprentice,
building on the LEP’s apprenticeship programme which has created opportunities
for over 1,000 young people in the past two years.
Support and funding for businesses
Businesses in the City Region will benefit from a
simpler, more responsive business support system, making it easier for small
firms and entrepreneurs to get the support and funding they need to grow. There
will be a more flexible relationship with UKTI in the City Region, ensuring
that support to help companies break into export markets is tailored to the
needs of local firms and fast-growing sectors.
Transport and housing
The devolution agreement also opens the door to a
different working relationship with national agencies including the Homes and
Communities Agency, Highways England and Network Rail, giving the Combined
Authority a greater say over long-term transport and housing planning so that
national planning and investment decisions are informed by local priorities.
The devolution agreement recognises the enhanced
governance arrangements put in place in the region following the establishment
of the Combined Authority in April 2014. It allows for negotiations on further
devolution of powers and investment with any future governance changes being
subject to consultation by the Combined Authority.
Combined Authority Leaders acknowledged that the Deal was
a starting point, despite falling short of the City Region’s economic
Councillor Peter Box, Chair of the West Yorkshire
Combined Authority said:
“The deal is disappointing and doesn’t match the scale of
our ambition. It undermines the Government’s claim to want a strong Northern
powerhouse. If we are to turn that into a reality we need real devolution,
including fiscal devolution, to enable us to bring about a step change in the
City Region’s economy."
Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council
“This does not match our ambitions for the people of
Leeds and the city region. We were
promised by the Deputy Prime Minister that there would be no strings attached
in relation to governance models so we are disappointed by the lack of
devolution on transport and housing investment powers. Additionally, given that
our Devolved Youth Contract is getting eight out of 10 young people into work
compared with three out of 10 on national programmes it's no surprise that this
deal rightly gives us more influence over skills and apprenticeships.
“However, it is no compensation for the £470m of cuts
that our councils have had to deliver and it falls far short of our ambition to
shape our own economic destiny and create the 62,000 jobs that the people and
businesses of Leeds and the city region need.
“We have demonstrated we have the appetite and ability to
deliver far more to improve our economy. We shall continue to lobby and
campaign for the greater powers and resources, including fiscal powers, that we
need to achieve our ambitions and start the process of tackling the north-south