‘Historic opportunity’ for Humber

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THE transformation of the Humber into a global centre for green energy industries will form the central focus of the area’s proposed City Deal devolution package.

Council and business leaders last night hailed the historic opportunity for Hull and the Humber to win a raft of new powers and funding from Whitehall as they push forward with their drive to create “the UK’s largest renewable energy cluster”.

With its vast docklands and close proximity to the sprawling offshore wind farms set to be built out in the North Sea over the next 10 years, the Humber area has
the potential to become a major manufacturing base for wind turbines.

Ensuring local skills training is focused on the new green energy industries is therefore certain to be a centrepiece of the City Deal proposal for the Humber area.

“If our plans for the area succeed we will be creating thousands of new jobs,” Richard Kendall, manager of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), told the Yorkshire Post.

“Obviously we think it’s important that those jobs go to local people, and so it’s vital the skills base is there to allow people living in the Humber to access them.”

The LEP will now work closely with local authority bosses from Hull, East Riding, North and North East Lincolnshire, over the next two months to draw up detailed plans for a devolution package.

They must submit their proposals to Government by mid-January, and then face an agonising wait as Ministers consider whether they are suitably innovative and far-reaching to be signed off.

LEP chairman Lord Haskin said: “The public and private sectors working together are keen to take on more responsibility for the Humber’s economic future. We welcome the opportunity to develop our proposal for a deal.

“We want to use a City Deal to help us to deliver the potential of our biggest economic asset, the Humber Estuary, and support the work we are doing to create the UK’s largest renewable energy cluster.”

Treasury officials have made it clear they expect councils to show they are willing to back their City Deal proposals with significant local funds, and that there must be a relentless focus on economic growth and efficiency.

Ministers will also expect councils working together to show stronger systems of governance – raising the possibility of a formal pan-Humber alliance of local authorities being formed for the first time.

Coun Stephen Brady, leader of Hull City Council, said: “We are very pleased to be part of one of the 20 areas asked to bid. We are looking forward to working together with our public and private sector partners from across the Humber.”

The Government is optimistic that by handing powers back to key cities and the wider economic areas that surround them, civic leaders will be able to drive growth locally and so boost the wider British economy.

Minister for Cities Greg Clark said: “For Britain to prosper we need Hull and the Humber to prosper. Every British town and city is unique – in its history, strengths, industries and character.

“For too long governments treated them as if they were all the same, making them conform to a Whitehall template.

“City Deals put Hull and the Humber in the driving seat. It can seize the initiative and show what it needs to prosper and grow, even if it’s new and different.

“If it’s in the interest of Hull and the Humber and the national interest, we’ll strike a deal and make it happen.”

If agreed, the deal is expected to be up and running by November 2013.