Questions over business support funding as politicians argue over devolution

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SOME FUNDING for apprenticeships and business support for companies in Yorkshire starts to run out next year as local politicians continue to wrangle over the details of a devolution deal with Government.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership secured deals with the coalition to transfer more than a billion pounds worth of funding for economic development programmes.

The efforts boosted the city region’s annual economic output by an estimated £1.4bn and helped create an additional 3,200 jobs.

Some local authority figures have suggested that the lack of progress in devolution talks with the Conservative administration could jeopardise future funding for the region.

However, a spokeswoman for the LEP played down the concerns. She told The Yorkshire Post: “Before securing our £1 billion Growth Deal with Government in 2014, most of our funding was on a project-by-project basis.

“Some projects are coming to their planned close in 2016 and 17 including our LEP Apprenticeship Hub programme, which has helped over 2,000 businesses to take on an apprentice since the programme began.

“Through our Growth Deal and £300 million European Structural and Investment Funds programme there are resources in place to continue existing business support activity, including our established business grants programme and LEP growth service, as well as launch new schemes for start-ups and established businesses.

“Funding from the Growth Deal has been secured for activity over the next five years alongside a 20-year programme of transport investment. We are also continuing to work with Government and local public and private sector partners to unlock more of the investment and powers we need to deliver our Strategic Economic Plan.”

Business leaders have accused local politicians of putting too much focus on structures and boundaries and not enough on making lives better and helping businesses to become more successful. The CBI said devolution should not be about “moving local authority deckchairs” and ought to focus on empowerment.

Proposals continue to go back and forth between Yorkshire and Whitehall, but progress is being hampered by arguments over geography. Officials are reluctant to talk about the detail of how they are going to devolve powers until they know the area.

It now seems likely that all sides will wait for the devolution bill to go through Parliament in the coming weeks, which will make it clear what powers are available and what existing councils can do to veto or amend devolution proposals. A deal or deals can then be done.