Chancellor George Osborne confirmed in his Budget Statement today that discussions on handing over “significant additional powers” to the Leeds City Region area as part of a further devolution deal for West Yorkshire are progressing.
West Yorkshire council leaders have presented government with a comprehensive list of ‘asks’ on aspects of transport, roads management, infrastructure and regeneration funding through some fiscal devolution, education and skills training, economic development and the environment and culture. Council leaders are seeking full local control over both funding and decision-making currently controlled by government.
Mr Osborne told Parliament:“To fulfil its commitment to rebalance the economy and further strengthen the Northern Powerhouse, the budget also announces that the government is working towards a further devolution deal with Leeds, West Yorkshire and partner authorities to be agreed in parallel to the Spending Review.
City Council Leader and WYCA member Councillor Judith Blake described Leeds as “an ambitious city that deserves more local control over its own affairs. She said:“We are a city that has one of the strongest economies in the country, but the scale of centralisation in this country means we are held back by decisions taken in Whitehall that should be taken locally, by people who have the local knowledge needed to deliver much better outcomes.
“We have more than proved that we can deliver better results locally, as seen with our Devolved Youth Contract where 8 out of 10 young people progressed into work or training, compared to 3 out of 10 on the equivalent national scheme.
“It’s clear that the Government wants to force local areas to accept an elected mayor as the price of the deal, but before that can be considered there has to be a much better understanding of what will be devolved.”
Cllr Blake said that if agreement is reached, including on an elected mayor working with local leaders to oversee new powers devolved from ministers, the area will be granted significant additional powers and the opportunity to take control of its own affairs to support economic growth.
Wakefield Council Leader, Cllr Peter Box told the Yorkshire Post: “West Yorkshire leaders are in talks with the Government about devolution and we have made it clear to government that we are hugely ambitious and we are putting forward a set of asks that matches our ambitions.”
Welcoming the government pledge to a second stage devolution deal, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Chair, Roger Marsh said: “Driving the region’s economy is paramount to all LEP activity and devolving further powers and funding will enable us to achieve our ambition to turn our economy into a net contributor to the public purse.
“What we need to see secured as part of ongoing discussions with government is a deal that would provide powers for our area to raise its own finances. Devolution is not real devolution without fiscal powers and we will continue to call for this as we work up the detail ahead of the Spending Review.”