This regional panel discusses a number of key issues which are of major importance for the Leeds City Region and Yorkshire as a whole – with a focus on Devolution for Yorkshire, The Northern Powerhouse concept and the Regional Strategy.
This YEN Expo debate explores the issues around Devolution, what options exist and what measures are being put in place for a directly-elected regional parliament for Yorkshire. How would this enhance democratic accountability by bringing key decision-making powers to the region?
So what do we know so far?
Since 2014, the Government has been offering ‘devolution deals’ to groups of local councils which come together and agree to have a metro-mayor. The deals usually involve extra money (figures of around £150million have been mentioned) and the transfer of powers from Whitehall to the mayor in areas such as transport and skills.
The idea underpinning devolution deals is that better decisions are made if they are taken closer to where they will have an impact. Historically, local government had far more powers but over time control has been centralised in London over even relatively minor decisions.
On Yorkshire Day 2017, seventeen councils in Yorkshire said they wanted to unite behind a devolution deal with a “coalition of the willing” called for by several council leaders.
However, despite a range of proposals, councils have so far failed to agree on a united Yorkshire-wide deal.
One stumbling block has been the fact that a Sheffield City Region deal had already been agreed in 2015 which should have seen a metro-mayor elected in 2017. However, it was challenged in the courts by Derbyshire County Council, Bassetlaw and Chesterfield withdrew and political disputes divided the four South Yorkshire councils. The election was postponed until 2018.
Then, more recently, Doncaster and Barnsley councils withdrew their support for that option, stating that they were in favour of the One Yorkshire devolution proposal instead. Despite all this, Government ministers have been insisting that the election of a Sheffield City Region mayor should go ahead.
The Leeds City Region group of councils put forward their own devolution proposal but it was rejected by the Government because of the concerns of Conservative MPs and North Yorkshire County Council.
An online poll of YEN members showed 81% of respondents in favour of the One Yorkshire option, which they felt would be best placed to bring more benefits to the region. Just 11% felt there should be separate deals for the Leeds, Sheffield and Hull City Regions with a tiny 7% responding “No -Yorkshire wouldn’t benefit from any sort of Devolution deal”.
The Northern Powerhouse concept is based around the ethos of creating growth across the North – focusing on training, skills and infrastructure to attract investment into the region.
The Government proposals include both Leeds and Sheffield as ‘core’ cities with the idea that more localised decision-making capabilities would enable us to influence economic growth in our own region. It would bring greater focussed investment, particularly in skills training and business support to facilitate growth of the 120,000 SMEs in Yorkshire – with decentralised decision-making powers empowering us to support our own infrastructure.
The panel examines just how successful this concept has been so far and what more can be done to boost the local economy.
Here the panel looks at the broader strategy set out by The LEP (Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership) in key areas such as:
• Growing businesses
• Increasing skills and creating better jobs
• The creation of clean energy
• Improving infrastructure across the region
Session Panellists are:
• Leader of Bradford Council, Susan Hinchcliffe
• Chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Roger Marsh;
• Chairman of YEN and Malik House, Nasser Malik
• Regional Director of the Department of International Trade (DIT), Mark Robson
• Director of National Literacy Trust, Jonathan Douglas