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What happened at March's WYCA meeting?

West Yorkshire Combined Authority's most recent meeting took place on Thursday 12 March, 2015 at Dewsbury Town Hall.

What was discussed and decided?

Keys issues discussed at the meeting were:

 

  • Housing requirements across the Leeds City Region and how to stimulate and incentivise the housing industry to build more, affordable homes.
  • City Deal projects across the Leeds City Region are now either complete or on target.
  • Gateway Approvals to progress West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund Schemes on the A629 between Jubilee Road  and Free School Lane in Kirklees and the East Leeds Orbital Road.
  • Providing an Assurance Framework setting out governance arrangements and appraisal processes in place across the City Region.
  • Re-franchising of Northern and TransPennine services through Rail North working with the Department for Transport and the proposed Northern transport strategy being developed through the Transport for the North Partnership.
  • Transfer of LEP staff to the WYCA and the inward investment function from Leeds and Partners to the LEP.
  • A first stage devolution deal for West Yorkshire is expected to be announced in the Budget on Wednesday 18 March.

Housing Requirements

While the Leeds City Region’s Planning Authorities are ‘planning for growth’ and planning for a significant number of houses has been approved the development is not happening.

WYCA members agreed this showed that planning was not a barrier to creating additional housing but the current housing market means development of those approved schemes has been slow.

It was agreed that work was needed to improve understanding of the demographic evidence for assessing housing need and the cross-boundary impacts of housing markets  and that the WYCA should enable and incentivise the housing industry to build more homes in line with the aims of the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund and the LCR Strategic Economic Plan (SEP).

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Growth Deal Schemes

‘We’re getting there and we’re doing it’, was the phrase applied to both the Growth Deal report and the subsequent West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund report.

City Deal projects including the Devolved Youth Contract in Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield, which had seen over 2,000 young people progressing into employment, education or training outcomes are now complete. Apprenticeship Hubs have provided over 1,000 new places for young people in small businesses across the City Region and a £17.5m was launched recently to help small businesses invest in skills and training

In July, the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership secured a £1bn Growth Deal settlement, the country’s largest. This was supplemented by an additional £54.6m of Growth Deal funding announced in January.

Growth Deal projects endorsed by the Combined Authority include One City Park in Bradford and Northgate House in Halifax, along with the development of housing and employment sites in Leeds, York and Skipton. They are forecast to create thousands of permanent and temporary jobs, unlock more than £100m of private investment, provide new local housing, and bring currently derelict sites back into use.

Earlier this month, six housing and regeneration schemes were identified as ready for delivery in the next twelve to 18 months and which will be appraised to assess their economic impact. They include Barnsley town centre, Bath Road remediation in Leeds, Bradford/Shipley Canal Road Corridor, Castleford Growth Corridor, Pioneer House in Dewsbury and York Guildhall and Riverside.

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West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund

 

Leeds City Region’s £1bn Growth Deal settlement uniquely included £420m to establish a £1.4bn West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund.

Key West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund schemes being progressed include Harrogate Road New Line in Bradford, Wakefield Eastern Relief Road and extensions to rail station car parks, York Outer Ring Road and the Pontefract Northern Link Road, which was completed in February.

In addition to the 21 West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund transport schemes to be complete by 2021, there are a further 12 schemes scheduled to be on site by 2021 and a further six to be delivered by 2025.

Two, the A629 from Jubilee Road to Free School Lane in Kirklees and the East Leeds Orbital Road were approved for Gateway 1 Development Approval at today’s meeting meaning modelling and the preparation of a high-level business case can now take place.

It was agreed that Gateway tests which Growth Deal and transport Fund projects are required to pass before moving on to the next stage of development were necessary but shouldn’t be allowed to delay the good progress being made.

 

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Assurance Framework

With the WYCA and the LEP Board’s increasing degree of influence and control over transport and economic development budgets and investment decisions, the Government has asked them approve an Assurance Framework before the start of the new financial year in April.

The Framework sets out open and accountable governance arrangements that are in place across the City Region, alongside the robust project and programme appraisal processes that will be adopted to ensure value for money in future investment decisions.

The Framework will be reviewed annually.

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Transport for the North

Transport for the North emerged as a result of HS2 Ltd. Chair David Higgins report ‘Rebalancing Britain’ in which he said cuts in east-to-west journey times are ‘a necessity’ and introduced the concept of HS3.

It is a partnership between Northern city regions, Combined Authorities and the Department for Transport working closely with Highways England and Network Rail.

The Government’s first draft of the strategy had been rejected because it was not sufficiently ambitious or detailed and an update is being produced with the aim of having a commitment included in the Budget on 18 March.

While building on the ‘High Speed 3’ proposal, Transport for the North’s work also reflect the needs of other modes including the strategic road network, freight, travel within the city regions and integrated transport services including customer service and smart ticketing.

WYCA’s Transport for the North representatives have highlighted the importance of improving connectivity beyond the HS2/3 hubs in Leeds and York to ensure that the whole city region benefits from the proposed investment.

The meeting agreed it is important that decision affecting particular modes of transport – road, rail, air - are not taken in isolation but as part of an overall integrated network.

 

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Rail North

West Yorkshire Combined Authority is taking on administrative and back-office support for Rail North Limited. Its offices will in the WYCA’s Wellington House HQ in Leeds.

Rail North represents 29 Local Transport Authorities in the north of England. It has played a key role in shaping the Northern and TransPennine Express rail franchises, which will start in April 2016 and has gained a commitment from the Department for Transport to run the franchises from the north rather than Whitehall.

The scrapping of unpopular 40 year-old Pacer train units and the introduction of 120 new carriageways to the North’s rail network by the end of the decade and the inclusion of smartcard ticketing are key concessions Rail North has gained from the Secretary of State. Electrification of the Caldervale Line through Bradford and Halifax, better train services for the Five Towns area and improvements to the Harrogate Line are among Rail North’s other ambitions. The WYCA’s transport Committee will continue to press these issues along with accessibility and integration of the network.

Rail North’s achievements were described as a breakthrough on Whitehall’s ‘vice-like grip’ on transport.

The new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises announced in March 2015 and due to be introduced in 2016, represent a step-change in the way that the franchises will be managed. 

Instead of being managed remotely from Whitehall, both franchises with be managed by a small team based in Leeds under a formal Partnership between Rail North and the Department for Transport. There will be a Strategic Board, comprising senior officers from Rail North’s partner authorities and DfT, with an independent Chair. This Board will oversee a joint Rail North / DfT Management Team which will manage the franchises.

Among the minimum requirements for the new franchisees are new Sunday services, additional services in the morning and evening peak, train refurbishment and the withdrawal of all Pacer units by 2020.

Bids to run the two franchises are expected to be returned in mid-2015 and the preferred bidders announced by the end of the year, by which time Rail North is expected to be fully established.

 

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Transfer of LEP & Leeds and Partners staff.

Since the WYCA’s creation in April 2014, employees of the former PTE (Metro) and the LEP have worked closely together and since July 2014, have been located in WYCA’s Wellington House HQ in Leeds.

The next stage of integrating these functions is the formal TUPE transfer of the LCR/ LEP employees from Leeds City Council into WYCA on 1 April 2015. Further integration will take place during 2015/16 to ensure the best use of skills and budgets to deliver WYCA’s aims.

Expenditure and income on projects and programmes, currently run operated by the LEP will be undertaken through the Combined Authority. Projects already underway and due to be completed in 2015/16, will continue to be managed through Leeds City Council. All others will be managed through WYCA financial systems.

As the WYCA develops it is expected that other functions will move in to the organisation and this includes 14 staff working for the inward investment function of Leeds and Partners later in summer 2015. The intention is to transfer the function into the LEP where this work can be integrated with other similar activities.

 

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Devolution

It is expected that an announcement on a first stage Devolution deal for West Yorkshire will be unveiled as part of the Budget on Wednesday 18 March.

WYCA has high ambitions and confidence that given the right powers, it can deliver on them without the need for a new structure. ‘Power not Position’ was the phrase used when discussing this.

 It was felt that it would not be right for the Chancellor to announce any deal on Wednesday 18 March without consulting the Combined Authority beforehand.

 

It was agreed that true devolution included fiscal powers, that deals announced to date have not contained this and are therefore more decentralisation and that this full devolution is what WYCA should be seeking.

Link to the meeting page agenda page. 

 

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