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

West Yorkshire Combined Authority's most recent meeting took place on Thursday 31 March at its Wellington House HQ in Leeds.

What was discussed and decided?

Key issues discussed at the meeting included:

  • Implications of Government's 2016 Budget;
  • Growth Deal Approvals;
  • Refresh of the Leeds City Region Strategic Economic Plan;
  • Transport Priorities and Transport for the North; 
  • Minimum Standards Charter for Construction Industry Employees
Full agenda

Implications of Government's 2016 Budget

A report setting out the implications of the Government’s 2016 budget and the principal implications related to Combined Authority powers focusing on business rates, flooding and transport was discussed.

Business Rates

The Chancellor’s cuts for all business rate payers will provide short-term benefits for small businesses and significant long-term benefits for larger businesses.  However there was concern that the compensation to local authorities for the loss of income resulting from business rate cuts are not guaranteed to cover the full loss. Clarity on the detail is being sought.

Flooding

The Government has committed a further £130m to repairing roads and bridges damaged by Storms Desmond and Eva on top of the £49m previously announced which would benefit, for example, Linton Bridge in Leeds, Scout Road in Calderdale and the A646 near Mytholmroyd.  In addition, a further £700m would be added to the Government’s flood defence capital programme by 2020 with maintenance spending to be increased by £40m.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s own £5m Business Relief Fund, set up in February has allocated £580,000 of financial aid has to help flood-hit companies get back on their feet after the Boxing Day floods. 

Transport

The Chancellor committed support to the Northern Transport Strategy, developed by Transport for the North (TfN). This includes commitments to develop High Speed 3, upgrade the M62 to a four-lane smart motorway and improve Leeds Rail Station in line with HS2, using part of the £300m funding pot announced in November’s Spending Review.

Further Budget announcements included the bringing forward by two years of previously announced critical road projects, including Lofthouse junction and capacity enhancements to the M1 at junction 35a-39 (Rotherham to Wakefield). Funding to improve local roads was announced with £15m allocated from the Pothole Action Fund to repair around 277,000 potholes during 2016-17.

A further report will be brought to a future West Yorkshire Combined Authority meeting once more details of the Budget’s implications are known.

Growth Deal Approvals

Almost £25m of Growth Deal funding was approved to advance six schemes that support West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s commitment to supporting people develop work skills through education and training, to developing a better local transport network and improving people’s standard of living.

The schemes are part of the Combined Authority’s Skills Capital, Resource Efficiency, Housing and Regeneration and the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund programmes.

Grant funding of £14m was agreed to enable Leeds College of Building to operate from two sites in Leeds to provide world class education and training facilities for students and the construction industry to meet the growing needs and skills gaps in the industry. When the project is completed, £2.1m of the funding will be repaid to the Combined Authority.

It was agreed that the Combined Authority’s Director of Programme Delivery and the Chair of the Investment Committee should find a funding mechanism to allocate £7m to construct a new 6.4 kilometre District Heating Network (DHN). TheDistrict Heating Network will connect the Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility in the Aire Valley to customers across the Leeds, the benefits of which would include tackling fuel poverty and a 40% reduction in carbon between 2005 and 2020.

The Combined Authority was told that other similar projects are being developed in other West Yorkshire districts and was agreed a detailed programme would be submitted to the Investment Committee for further consideration and future recommendation to the Combined Authority.

The York Central Access and Station Masterplan scheme’s Gateway 1 submission sets out how it will make it possible to develop a highly sustainable new central business district with modern commercial floor space in the city centre.

This kind of space is currently lacking in central York and the new development will enable businesses to grow and encourage companies to relocate. The scheme will also make possible the development of up to 2,500 homes close to the city’s rail station.

Improvements at the front of the station will create a new and enhanced city centre gateway. There will also be savings on journey times for buses, taxis, cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

The Combined Authority approved £2.1m to progress the scheme’s development.

Expenditure of £70,000 to progress the feasibility work to progress the M62 Junction 24a scheme was agreed.

Located where the M62 crosses the A641, the proposed new junction 24a at Rastrick would ease traffic congestion at Junctions 24, Ainley Top, and 25, Brighouse.

The funding was agreed to carry out an extended feasibility study into the economic, social and wider impacts of the scheme.

Pre-feasibility work to re-evaluate the economic benefits of the South East Bradford Link Road will be carried out with the £91,000 agreed at the Combined Authority meeting. This work will investigate options to provide improved connectivity between south and east Bradford, understand the scale and location of growth that can be accommodated sustainably and at the same time reduce congestion along Tong Street into Bradford City centre.

The remaining £1.6m was also approved for the development of the A629 Phase 2 scheme, which will accelerate progress with the design work for junction improvements at congestion bottlenecks along the A629 in Salterhebble and south Halifax. These improvements will deliver benefits for all road users, and local residents and businesses.

Refresh of the Leeds City Region Strategic Economic Plan (SEP)

It was agreed at the meeting that the draft update of the Leeds City Region Strategic Economic Plan be endorsed as the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s overarching economic strategy.

Completed in March 2014, the SEP was both a a statement of local economic ambition and policy and a competitive bid document for a share of the government’s £12bn Local Growth Fund.  In September 2015, following recommendation by the LEP Board, the Combined Authority approved a review of the SEP two years on in order to re-assess the strategy in light of experience of project delivery to date and economic and political developments over that period. 

Work to review the SEP has included:

  • an update and review of the economic evidence base underpinning the Strategy;
  • economic modelling both of the impact of LEP investments to date and of the expected economic impact of investments planned for the coming decade;
  • extensive consultation with external stakeholders, business representatives, local authority partners and the public.

 

Transport Priorities and Transport for the North (TfN)

 The Committee considered a report setting out the key messages in the recently published Transport for the North (TfN) report. 

It was noted that Lord Adonis, as Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, had published a report on high speed rail in the North which recognised the need for immediate and significant investment in the North and a plan for longer-term transformation to reduce journey times, increase capacity and improve reliability. 

The report also recommends kick-starting HS3, bringing forward of investment to boost capacity on the M62 and recognised the opportunities of upgrading the Calder Valley route. 

Members at the meeting agreed Lord Adonis should be invited to a future Combined Authority to discuss some of the issues set out in his report.

Members also agreed that it was important to set out a consistent and clear narrative to influence the northern and national agenda and to have a clearly defined list of regional priority interventions.  The Transport Committee had considered the Leeds City Region’s ambitions in the context of its role in the Northern Powerhouse and had suggested the six following key messages: 
  • A Northern Powerhouse rail network that radically improves journey times and frequencies without causing a detriment to the existing network;
  • A full review of Strategic Highway Network priorities, recognising the importance of the M62 and M1 to the Leeds City Region;
  • Improved surface access to Manchester and Leeds/Bradford Airports that offer businesses more international destinations;
  • Significant improvements to road and rail to transform the distribution network;
  • Smart ticketing and fare simplification with LCR leading the way;
  • Leeds City Region schemes that have pan-northern benefits are prioritised and supported.

These key messages were endorsed and it was agreed that work to identify Leeds City Region’s priorities for submission to Transport for the North be continued.  

Minimum Standards Charter for Construction Industry Employees

West Yorkshire authorities are signing up to a Minimum Standards Charter which supports the principles that: 

  • the Health & Safety of workers is paramount, and that appropriate welfare facilities should be provided;
  • skilled operatives should be used in order to achieve the high standard finished product that is demanded;
  • major contractors should offer apprenticeships to the youth of the city region, and generally supports initiatives to improve the education/training of construction employers and employees;
  • workers should be fairly rewarded, and should be entitled to holiday, sickness, pension, accident compensation and death in service rights;
  • trade unions have a vital role, including inviting construction employers to agree to employ operatives under the terms and conditions of relevant national agreements.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority agreed to support the principles, which encourage the adoption and adherence to a set of minimum standards of employment on construction projects.

However they requested a further report on their implications for tendering and procurement and the effect they may have on smaller contractors.

Full agenda page.

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