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What happened at January's WYCA meeting?

West Yorkshire Combined Authority's most recent meeting took place on Thursday 29 January, 2015
at Wakefield County Hall.

What was discussed and decided?

 Keys issues discussed at the meeting were:

  • ensuring Transport Committee Chair, Cllr James Lewis, is able to contribute to WYCA meetings to reflect the importance of transport to local people and to achieving the WYCA’s aims;
  • announcement of a further £54.6m Growth Deal funding from the Government to create jobs and support business growth across the Leeds City Region;
  • Budget and Business Plan for 2015/2016; and the need to use £1m of reserves to leave transport levy on the five West Yorkshire districts unchanged;
  • WYCA disappointment and frustration at the lack of progress on a West Yorkshire Devolution deal despite public comments made by senior Ministers and the Prime Minister, resulting in an agreement to write to David Cameron, urging him to intervene personally;
  • Single Transport Plan, which pulls together the WYCA’s transport initiatives including the West Yorkshire Local Transport Plan Consultation on which there will be a consultation between February and May this year;
  • requirement for WYCA to do more to communicate with people of West Yorkshire and the City Region about its work to grow the economy, create jobs, develop new affordable housing and improve the transport network, by promoting its manifesto.

Additional Growth Deal funding

Overall, the investment could bring up to 10,000 jobs, 2,000 new homes and as much as £640m public and private sector investment to the Leeds City Region. This new funding is on top of the £1 billion deal agreed in July 2014, which saw the Leeds City Region awarded the largest settlement of any LEP area in the country.

The additional funding was seen as a vote of confidence in the WYCA and LEP’s ability to deliver results locally.
Projects that will benefit from this round of investment include:

  • Housing and Regeneration programmes that will enable housing and employment growth;
  • a funding boost for the LEP’s business grants programme, helping more companies grow, innovate and exploit supply chain opportunities;
  • innovation and Enterprise centres at the Universities of Huddersfield and Leeds, forging links between business and universities, particularly in the health and medical, advanced manufacturing, and digital and creative sectors;
  • funding to exploit new resource efficient technologies to provide low cost, local energy.

As part of the new deal, an additional £16m is provided for LEP funding programmes which have now supported over 350 businesses with the potential to create 3,500 jobs – meaning new resources for small businesses looking to expand and create jobs.

There will be an extra £20m for schemes that will bring housing and employment growth sites forward for development, supporting the aim to double the rate of house building. Funding has also been secured to exploit new resource-efficient technologies and provide low cost, local energy.

Huddersfield University will receive investment in an Incubation and Innovation Centre to support business in the advanced manufacturing and creative and digital sectors as part of important new support for business innovation. University of Leeds will also receive investment for an Innovation and Enterprise Centre, to provide incubation space for high tech companies, primarily in the health and medical sector. These new centres will help businesses form and develop in high technology sectors, supporting innovation and retaining business talent in the region.

Further skills capital funding has been secured to create world class learning facilities in further education colleges and training providers, particularly those that will support training in highly skilled jobs such as engineering and manufacturing. This builds on the £74 million secured in the first round of funding and supports the development of a skilled and flexible workforce.

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Business Plan and Budget

The outline business plan and revenue budget for WYCA for 2015/16 were approved.

Reserves of £1m will be used to enable the transport levy on the five West Yorkshire districts to remain unchanged apart from a small increase specifically for the West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund.

The Budget Working Group, which has overseen the transition to the WYCA and the development of a robust medium term financial strategy, will continue for 2015/16 after the LEP and its budgets transfer to the WYCA.

 

Devolution

Frustrated at the deadlock over West Yorkshire’s devolution proposals, West Yorkshire Combined Authority members are writing to the Prime Minister asking him to intervene.

At their meeting this week, they heard that after weeks of discussions with Government officials and Ministers, there was no sign of West Yorkshire’s first-stage devolution deal being agreed despite guarantees that it would not be dependent upon changes to governance.

The meeting had earlier been told that the Government had announced a further £56.4m of Growth Deal cash to fund to create jobs and support business growth in the Leeds City Region, which was seen as a vote of confidence in the WYCA and LEP’s ability to deliver results locally.

The decision to write to David Cameron, urging his intervention was supported by all parties at the WYCA and Roger Marsh, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Manchester and South Yorkshire have devolution deals in place and we all members of WYCA agreed in the need to press for a first-stage deal for West Yorkshire, which would focus on jobs, housing, transport, business growth, innovation and skills and build upon the successes already being achieved by locally-managed initiatives.

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Single Transport Plan

In May 2014, the Combined Authority agreed to develop a 20-year Single Transport Plan for West Yorkshire to review the Local Transport Plan (LTP). The Plan will also support implementation of related strategies such as the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), the West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund (WY+TF), preparations for High Speed Rail (HS2, HS3) and work to improve bus services and devolve rail to more local control.

The Single Transport Plan focuses on better national connections and joining up the north on east-west routes to maximise benefits from HS2 and HS3. It also concentrates on better coordination between types of transport and consulting with stakeholders, including motorists, transport users and business.

Among its main aims are:

  • developing an accessible, easy to use and understand integrated ‘metro-style’ public transport network to provide quick, convenient connections across the Leeds City Region. Better public transport would reduce road congestion and make freight movement more efficient;
  • improving air quality and health through Low Emission Vehicles and encouraging more cycling and walking for shorter journeys to make our cities, towns and neighbourhoods more attractive places in which to invest, live and work;
  • using technology such as smartcards to improve management of the transport system and make it simpler and more convenient for passengers to use;
  • pooling resources to overcome financial constraints and make education, employment and training more accessible for young people and improve links for rural communities;
  • getting maximum value for money by ensuring transport infrastructure such as roads, bridges, street lights, public transport stations and shelters, footways and cycle routes are well-managed.

 Consultation on the Plan is proposed to take place from February to May this year.

 

Public engagement

There was agreement that the WYCA needs to do more to communicate with people of West Yorkshire and the City Region about its work to grow the economy, create jobs, develop new affordable housing and improve the transport network.

Among the measures agreed were this type of summary of WYCA meetings and events within local communities, particularly focusing on transport issues, blogs on the WYCA website and greater use of social media such as the @WestYorkshireCA (opens in new window)

Link to the meeting agenda page.

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