Combined Authority Chair Cllr Peter Box has written to Communities & Local Government Minister Sajid Javid seeking clarity on proposals for a Leeds City Region devolution deal submitted to the Treasury in 2015.
In the letter, which also seeks the Minister’s support in progressing transformational devolution settlement, Cllr Box writes:“Securing a good deal remains of the greatest significance to the City Region because only the devolution of the proposed powers and budgets away from Whitehall will put the levers of economic growth back into the hands of our local people and places. In turn, this will enable the accelerated delivery of our Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), including £3.7bn additional GVA per annum, a ‘NEET’‐free City Region and an extra 37,500 extra jobs by 2036.”The proposals were agreed and submitted, in September 2015, by the Leaders of West Yorkshire Councils, the North Yorkshire District Councils of Craven, Harrogate and Selby, City of York Council and the Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
In his letter, Cllr Box says the proposal was progressed with Ministers and Treasury officials to the point of finalising a draft deal in March 2016, based upon “compelling evidence pointing to the logic of devolving to functional economic market areas such as Leeds City Region and “strong public and business identification with our ‘polycentric’ geography.”
Cllr Box also points to the fact that Leeds City Region is “devolution-ready” having agreed a first wave City Deal in 2012, established the West Yorkshire Combined Authority in April 2014, and secured a first stage devolution deal in 2015. This work he argues has placed Leeds City Region “at the vanguard of collaborative working”.
He goes on to cite the independent October 2014 RSA City Growth Commission report Unleashing Metro Growth which concluded that at that time that only London, Greater Manchester and Leeds City Region were ready to take on the risks and challenges associated with devolved status.
Prepared to progress a deal?
Cllr Box asks Sajid Javid to confirm whether the Government is prepared to progress a deal for Leeds City Region adding:
“Government’s agreement to the principle of a good deal for the people and businesses of our City Region would be entirely in the spirit of those being progressed in other parts of the country which are also based on recognised FEMAs.”
He adds that if the Government will not support a City Region deal, the Combined Authority has resolved to explore the options based on a larger geographic footprint, including a Yorkshire deal.
Cllr Box’s letter points out to the Minister that Leeds City Region is in the country’s largest such area outside of Greater London, and that its devolved skills, employment and business growth programmes are delivering at twice the impact and three times the speed of equivalent national programmes.
It also states that the City Region has a population of 2.8m with a 92.7% self‐contained labour market and that it includes the core city of Leeds, the key cities of Bradford, York, Wakefield and Huddersfield and Halifax. He also highlights particular synergies within the City Region such as those between York, Harrogate and Leeds.
Download the letter from Cllr Box to Sajid Javid (pdf - new tab.)