West Yorkshire’s council leaders have today expressed the view that their preferred option for a devolution bid to the government is based on a Leeds City Region geography.
They met today with Treasury Minister Lord O’Neill and leaders of the City of York and North Yorkshire districts within the Leeds City Region to confirm that a bid would be submitted on Friday (4 September).
Functional economic area
In their statement they say that Leeds City Region geography is the right footprint for a devolution deal because it is the “functional” economic area – the way that businesses operate and people travel to work.
Covering the West Yorkshire districts of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield plus the North Yorkshire districts of Craven, Harrogate, Selby and the City of York, this economic area represents the UK’s largest city region economy outside London. It generates £57.7bn of economic output and has a population of 2.8m, over 92% of whom also work within its area, but is sufficiently focused not to require the creation of new bodies and governance structures.
The leaders said that a devolution deal covering the City Region geography would build on over a decade of economic collaboration and partnership between local councils and businesses, which is already creating significant growth and jobs. This includes the £1.6 billion Growth Deal secured last year through Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – the largest such deal in the country.
Along with the preferred footprint, council leaders will submit a set of devolution ‘asks’ to transform the City Region economy, focusing on areas such as transport, housing, business support, skills and new powers to generate investment for major infrastructure projects.
The West Yorkshire leaders say they recognise that pursuing a Leeds City Region deal brings administrative challenges but that the scale of economic growth offered by devolution at this level should not be constrained by existing administrative boundaries. They point out that over 50,000 people commute between the areas of Craven, Harrogate, Selby and York and West Yorkshire, and note that there is a need to recognise these local economic linkages if the Northern Powerhouse is to become reality.
Councillor Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council said: “Today we had a constructive meeting with leaders of neighbouring councils and Lord O’Neill ahead of us submitting to government an ambitious devolution proposal that will mean better infrastructure, jobs and housing.”
The leaders acknowledge that in exchange for the devolution of these radical powers to enable local economies to thrive, the government has made clear it will insist on the introduction of an elected metro-mayor.
They say that although people in Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield voted against mayors in in 2012, the the potential benefits are now so substantial they have a duty to residents to give it serious consideration. However, they are making clear that they will not stand for the government using devolution to impose a mayor while keeping the real power in Whitehall or simply devolve the task and responsibility for implementing austerity measures.
The proposals are being submitted this week to meet the government’s Friday 4 September deadline.
West Yorkshire Leaders also confirmed that they would continue to support the Yorkshire brand through funding Welcome to Yorkshire, and to collaborate across Yorkshire to attract investment and jobs.
West Yorkshire Leaders' Leeds City Region submission letter and Devolution Asks (.pdf file 409kb - opens in new window)
Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Chair, Roger Marsh OBE, welcomes the submission (opens in new window).