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Devolution would mean that everyone in Yorkshire would be £600 better off each year

Local Government magazine, Municipal Journal has today published an article by West Yorkshire Combined Authority Chair Cllr Peter Box in which he says devolution would mean that everyone in Yorkshire would be £600 better off each year and that there would be 47,000 new jobs working in 35,000 additional modern businesses.

In the article Cllr Box says that Yorkshire's businesses, universities, public and politicians from from all political hues that are calling on the Government to put aside considerations of political advantage and come to the table for a constructive discussion on devolution.

The article as it appears in Municipal Journal:

Devolution could mean we can improve local people’s lives and we are committed to it, so why haven't we got it? 

Recent research suggests that over the next 25 years with one pot of money, decisions made locally on the priorities that we know would make the biggest difference in driving growth for all and closing the so called 'performance' gaps between our region and the rest of the country, could have profound effects for the people of the Leeds City Region, of Yorkshire and of the North more widely. It suggests everyone in Yorkshire would be GBP600 better off , there would be 47,000 new jobs working in 35,000 more modern businesses and the economy would be £100bn bigger - all on top of expected growth. But even more than that we could reduce those on benefits by 53,000, increase the skills levels dramatically with an extra 212,000 people at level 4 skills or above thus changing individuals life chances for ever. That is the prize we should all be seeking.

We as West Yorkshire’s council leaders share the frustrations of business, of partners and the public that a devolution deal has been blocked repeatedly, meaning decisions that affect our region are still not taken locally. We felt we had a mayoral deal for the Leeds City Region over a year ago but for whatever reason this is still to be agreed by Government. In fact it still hasn't been formally rejected and as yet we've had no reply from Sajid Javid.

In the absence of agreement from Government we are exploring all options for getting the powers and funds that will enable us to transform the local economy for the benefit of all the people of our region. One of the options open to us and Government is agreeing the economically coherent Leeds City Region (LCR) and Sheffield City Region (SCR) deals as they stand and pushing them through. But what seems right for Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and many others seems not to be right for the Leeds City Region. This seems ludicrous given the LCR’s importance not only to the Northern Powerhouse, being a fifth of its size but also to the country as whole as the largest city region economy outside of London and the South East.

Another option could be a larger geography but one based on two very clear criteria. Economic coherence has to be part of it but also a real sense of public coherence and identity. Put simply it has to be able to deliver good growth at pace and have public legitimacy to achieve that into a sustainable future. Achieving these requirements can only be done through backing City regions or by having a multiple CA single mayor model across a wider geography. This could unlock deals in Yorkshire, in Hampshire and many other areas of the country – but is Government serious about devolution or not? There are no insurmountable legal obstacles in the way - if Government decided to support it it would happen - indeed they have already changed the legislation before to accommodate a devo deal.

We still believe like colleagues across Yorkshire that a city region focus is important to be sure decisions remain focused on evidence-based economic priorities, we have never been in doubt that being part of this great county, with its history, reputation and sheer determination provides us with huge opportunities.

Certainly, it is difficult to see how anyone could avoid taking seriously a Yorkshire Mayor representing five million people, three vital City Regions and Combined Authorities, a £100bn economy and a worldwide reputation. Yorkshire represents one third of all Northern Powerhouse output and an economy bigger than nine EU countries and yet we could be so much more. A Yorkshire 'Premium' of more powers and more funds to spend locally could be the result allowing even better, faster and more profound change for the better here but also to the benefit of the whole North and the whole country.

Which is why, today it is not just ourselves, but business, universities, the public and constituents across the great county of Yorkshire from all political hues that are calling on the Government to come to the table constructively, putting aside narrow small ideas of political advantage. What we want is a deal or deals that meet the ambitions, the drive, and the opportunity of the whole of Yorkshire - time will tell if that's what the Government want as well.

Asked if he felt confident of a devolution deal, Cllr Box said today: “To us, devolution means devolution and I want to see a White Rose devolution and Brexit, ideally based around the Leeds City Region but possibly across the whole of Yorkshire to ensure we can play our full role at the economic and geographical heart of the Northern Powerhouse.”

“It is disappointing that just this week, the Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy was still trying to blame local politicians for his own government’s inactivity on devolution in Leeds City Region or Yorkshire, when it is encouraging the process in other areas, which shows ministers understand its huge benefits. 

In February, Cllr Box wrote to Communities & Local Government Minister Sajid Javid seeking clarity on the Leeds City Region devolution proposals that were submitted to the Treasury in 2015. As he points out in the Municipal Journal article, Sajid Javid has yet to reply.

Compelling

In his letter, Cllr Box said the proposal based upon the Leeds City Region was progressed with Ministers and Treasury officials to the point of finalising a draft deal in March 2016. He said it was based upon “compelling evidence pointing to the logic of devolving to functional economic market areas such as Leeds City Region and “strong public and business identification with our ‘polycentric’ geography.”

He pointed out that Leeds City Region is “devolution-ready” having agreed a first wave City Deal in 2012, and cited an RSA City Growth Commission report Unleashing Metro Growth which concluded, in 2014, that only Leeds City Region was ready to take on the risks and challenges associated with devolved status alongside London and Greater Manchester.

Yorkshire deal 

Cllr Box asked Sajid Javid to confirm whether the Government is prepared to progress a Leeds City Region deal and reiterates that if it won’t, the Combined Authority is resolved to exploring the options based on a larger geographic footprint, including a Yorkshire deal. He also pointed out to the Minister that Leeds City Region is in the country’s largest such area outside of Greater London, and that its devolved skills, employment and business 
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