Leaders of West Yorkshire Combined Authority have welcomed the publication of a report suggesting that devolution has the potential to boost economic output in the UK’s 15 largest metropolitan areas by £79bn per year.
‘Unleashing Growth (opens in new window)' is the final report of the City Growth Commission, containing a full set of recommendations for national and local government.
The report makes the case for, and explain how, cities can take a new role in our political economy, creating stronger, more inclusive and sustainable growth in the UK. Its recommendations include letting areas have greater flexibility over their spending and borrowing arrangements, by creating multi-year finance settlements of between five and 10 years; retention of a proportion of the tax proceeds of growth; and freedom for the most devolved areas to set and fully retain a suite of taxes.
“We have said all along that we need to be able to shape our own destiny rather than continue to be dictated to and held back by Whitehall,” said Cllr Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council. “These recommendations would enable us to make the major improvements we need.
“The debate over whether or not devolution should happen is over. Let’s get on and make it a reality and show that the confidence placed in us is more than justified to usher in a bright new future for the people of Leeds and the wider region.”
Writing in today’s Yorkshire Post, Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “Devolution works and we have the figures in the Leeds City Region that prove it. Locally-led programmes to support businesses, get young people into education and training, develop new housing and reduce reliance on government grants have delivered up to three times faster and had double the impact of national programmes.
The Combined Authority and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have already secured the country’s largest Growth Deal and the £1bn West Yorkshire plus Transport Fund. Now we have to build on that start and work towards a City Region that has jobs for all, an innovation-led environment, housing growth, 21st Century and is supported by a transformed transport system.
To achieve jobs for all, we need to see skills and employment funding devolved to the City Region. This would help our businesses to create 20,000 new high-quality jobs, supported by the higher level skills and apprenticeships.
Achieving these aims and reaching our full potential requires fiscal devolution and empowerment in the form of a single, comprehensive area budget to maximise value for money and make coherent economic planning possible. This means incentivised funding based on GVA growth to encourage local investment. It means retained business rates, an unfreezing of council tax restrictions and also the pooling of national and local public sector agency resources.
We could then work with our entrepreneurial private sector partners to help transform our City Region from being a recipient from the public purse to a net contributor.
Another task under devolution would be identifying the exact parameters of the area budget and drafting a West Yorkshire and York Bill. This would give us the powers, already enjoyed by London and major European cities regions, to put in place an integrated transport system, determine housing strategies and establish a skills and labour market agreement.
This last measure would enable the Combined Authority and the LEP to work with schools, colleges, universities and other learning bodies to support more people into work, and provide training in the skills that our businesses really need.
The North’s city regions have long seen devolution as a way of achieving their full economic potential and the recent Scottish referendum has put us in the spotlight. City regions across the North are all making demands in a new and changed environment.
The message of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority leaders is “give us the power to match our ambition”. We know the public don’t want even more politicians, which is why we are saying we can build on the strong Combined Authority Model already in existence.”
Roger Marsh, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership said, “Already a £56bn economy, the Leeds City Region is devolution ready. Unlocking the potential of the City Region and accelerating the growth of our economy is at the forefront of the LEP’s agenda. Recommendations set out in the City Growth Commission report reinforce the need to devolve the powers and pounds to city regions which ultimately would enable us to become a net contributor to the national economy - a devolution dividend for government.
“We have already achieved significant impact in the region with devolved funding and we will continue to work with our business and political leaders to enrich the regional economy and further develop a pan northern approach to build a northern economic powerhouse.”
'Unleashing growth (opens in new window)’ is available to download from the City Growth Commission web site.