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What happened at July's West Yorkshire Combined Authority meeting?

West Yorkshire Combined Authority's most recent meeting took place on Thursday 23 July 2015 at its Wellington House HQ in Leeds.

What was discussed and decided?

Keys issues discussed at the meeting were:

Link to the meeting agenda (opens in new window). 

Growth Deal projects

Since the announcement of the £1 billion-plus Leeds City Region Growth Deal a year ago, £55m of projects have been approved.

Fourteen projects, which between them they are expected to create over 5,000 jobs and more than 1,700 homes are underway. All of these projects have been designed to support the Combined Authority and the LEP’s priorities of:

  • improving local transport links;
  • accelerating housing growth and town centre regeneration;
  • developing a skilled and flexible workforce;
  • supporting growing businesses 
  • building a resource-efficient City Region. 

At the meeting WYCA Investment Committee Chair Cllr David Green highlighted that these projects have also attracted almost £350m private sector investment over the next three years.

Each of the approved projects has been subjected to a rigorous appraisal process to ensure they fit with the ambition set out in the region’s Strategic Economic Plan and deliver jobs and growth for businesses and residents.

The meeting also approved funding of up to £4.4m for housing schemes in Kirklees and Leeds and support of the Huddersfield Incubation & Innovation Programme.

These schemes were recommended by the WYCA Investment Committee with funding reallocated from planned projects that have not progressed as expected.

The Kirklees Housing projects at Ashbrow, Soothill and Stile Common will result in the creation of over 600 new homes. Funding for the Bath Road project in Leeds would be for ground works and site preparation work on four plots of Leeds City Council-owned land to enable it to be sold for residential development.

The Growth Deal funding will potentially unlock a further £16m of private investment in house building to create 160 residential units with exemplary sustainability standards, by 2020 and residential development that includes a higher proportion of 3 and 4-bedroom homes to introduce more options for family housing in Leeds City Centre. It will also support 240 construction jobs.

Growth Deal funding for the Huddersfield Incubation & Innovation Programme (HIIP) will be used to fit out the Programme’s headquarters at Globe Mill in Slaithwaite and provide dedicated leading-edge equipment for 120 advanced manufacturing companies in fields such as additive manufacturing, metrology and data visualisation.

By 2018/19, the HIIP will have provided financial support to 34 enterprises and business support services to 55 and created 139 full-time jobs. It will also create around 40 construction jobs supported during the construction phase.

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West Yorkshire Young Persons' Concessionary Travel Scheme

From November, half-fare bus and train travel is set to be extended to all 16 to 18 year-olds living in West Yorkshire. The change supports WYCA’s ambition to increase young people’s access to apprenticeships and training.

Concessionary travel is currently available to young people aged between 5 and 16 and those between 16 and 18 who are in full time further education and resident in West Yorkshire. The WYCA meeting approved the use of the organisation’s Wellbeing Powers to extend the scheme to all 16 to 18 year-olds living in the county.

After the meeting WYCA Chair, Cllr Peter Box said extending concessionary travel will help ensure young people are able to take advantage of the apprenticeship and job opportunities the Combined Authority is committed to helping our City Region’s businesses to offer.

WYCA Transport Committee Chair, Cllr Keith Wakefield said the Combined Authority was concerned that travel costs could act as a barrier to young people accessing apprenticeship and training and entering the workplace and this extension of our concessions scheme would go some way to addressing these problems.

Before the meeting, LEP Chair Roger Marsh OBE said enabling more young people to take up an apprenticeship and start the journey into highly skilled jobs and a career for the future supports the LEP and WYCA’s ambition to develop a skilled and flexible workforce across the Leeds City Region.

WYCA spends around £55m each year providing concessionary travel for 300,000 Senior, disabled, blind and young people. Effective financial management by the Combined Authority means we will be able to extend this scheme for 16 to 18 year-olds from within existing resources.

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Apprenticeship Grants for Employers (AGE)

Forming part of the first WYCA Devolution Agreement, Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) is designed to encourage businesses who would not normally engage with Apprenticeships to offer Apprenticeship opportunities to 16 – 24 year olds for the first time.

AGE will commence at the start of August 2015 and will be eligible to businesses with up to 250 employees within the West Yorkshire Combined Authority areas of West Yorkshire and York

Core grants will be £1,200 with a further £800 available to organisations that support the LEPs skills priorities, offer apprenticeships in sectors where skill shortages exist and support the LEP’s work with the Joseph Rowntree Trust on low-wages.

Up to three grants will be available per business, which is in line with national AGE take-up statistics.

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Budgets for LEP Projects and Programmes

WYCA approved the transfer of project budgets of almost £900,000 for the Green Deal Communities Fund, £2.76m for Tackling Long Term Youth Unemployment and almost £11m for the Growing Places Fund from Leeds City Council.

This is in line with LEP’s formal transfer from Leeds City Council to WYCA on 1 April 2015.

The Green Deal Communities Fund is multi-million pound project to help residents make their homes energy efficient and cheaper to heat. Homes benefit from internal and external wall insulation and other secondary measures like glazing, loft or attic room insulation and heating improvements.

Tackling Long Term Youth Unemployment (Headstart) provides extra, wrap-around support to long term unemployed young people aged 18-24 as they reach 6 months’ unemployment to help them make the move from NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) to EET.

The Growing Places Fund provides loan funding to businesses for infrastructure developments, particularly sites stalled due to the need for gap funding.

The meeting also agreed that WYCA will act as Intermediate Body for the Strategic Urban Development (SUD) element of the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF).
SUD strategies are intended to set out integrated, environmentally sustainable solution to challenges affecting urban areas. Acting as the Intermediate Body will mean WYCA receives delegated authority for the funds from central government.

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Devolution

In a verbal report to the meeting, WYCA Chair Cllr Box confirmed that a list of 27 devolution ‘asks’, building on WYCA’s first-stage devolution deal, has been presented to the government and discussions with ministers and civil servants were ongoing.

Cllr Box also reported that discussions were taking place with neighbouring authorities about the ‘footprint’ for devolution to ensure that the area covered by a future devolution deal would be the most effective in achieving the Authority’s ambitions.

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Review of WYCA and LEP roles in strategic planning.

A recent Planning Review conducted by the Leeds City Region Planning Portfolios Board came up with 36 recommendations recommended for approval by the WYCA.

These include:

  • WYCA to begin to provide formal consultation responses at publication draft stage in plan preparation on request and on receipt of a SEP alignment self-assessment from requesting Local Planning Authorities. 
  • WYCA to begin commenting on planning applications from an economic perspective as well as a transport perspective on an exception basis and in response to referrals from Local Planning Authorities. 
  • Increased joint working including exploring the potential for joint procurement frameworks for planning work and exploring the preparation of further joint evidence where appropriate.
  • Resource-sharing activity relating to minerals and waste planning.
  • Introduction of a spatial element to the SEP.

The meeting referred the Planning Portfolios Board's recommendations back to districts for further consideration before they are brought back to the Combined Authority at a later date.

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Link to the meeting agenda (opens in new window).

A link to minutes from the meeting will be published here (opens in new window).

 

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