Yorkshire business calls for end to devolution deadlock

Andy Clarke
Andy Clarke
1
Have your say

CHANCELLOR GEORGE Osborne has been urged to sign off a deal to hand over powers and money to the Leeds City Region area by a host of business and university leaders.

The letter, signed by more than 60 people tells the Chancellor the area is “central” to his plan to turn the North of England into an economic “powerhouse”.

It is the latest intervention in the ongoing debate over how West, North and East Yorkshire should respond to Mr Osborne’s offer to give areas more control over their own economic affairs in return for creating new elected mayors.

South Yorkshire and other parts of the North have agreed deals which will see mayors elected next year.

But competing proposals have been presented to Ministers covering West, North and East Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire councils have been pressing for a Leeds City Region deal covering themselves and some neighbouring authorities.

But Conservative MPs in West Yorkshire along with North Yorkshire County Council and East Riding Council have been calling for a Greater Yorkshire deal covering the whole of West, North and East Yorkshire.

The letter supporting the Leeds City Region concept includes signatures from Asda chief executive Andy Clarke, Leeds-Bradford Airport chief executive John Parkin, the vice-chancellors of three West Yorkshire universities and senior figures from three chambers of commerce.

It says: “As the UK’s largest functional economic area outside London and the South East, the Leeds City Region is clearly central to your vision of an economically successful and globally competitive Northern Powerhouse being fulfilled.

“As northern business and education leaders, we have major concerns about the continued absence of a meaningful devolution deal for such a significant economic area with a core city at its heart.

“We believe that further delays in securing such a deal would be to the detriment of jobs, growth and business investment, not just in our region but across the North and beyond.”

The letter raises the prospect of a Leeds City Region deal being a first step to an agreement covering more of Yorkshire.

It says: “From the evidence we have seen, the Leeds City Region deal seems to be the only option currently on the table that could be implemented in time for a democratically elected mayor to be in place by May 2017 – the same timescale to which Manchester, Sheffield and the other major city regions of the North are working.

“A City Region deal now would be an important step towards more comprehensive devolution in Yorkshire, enabling 75 per cent of the regional economy currently without devolution to have access to the benefits it presents quickly, with those benefits extending to the whole of the region as other proposals advance further.”

Last week, Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Roger Marsh warned the area was in danger of missing the “economic opportunity of a lifetime”.

Bradford Council leader David Green also expressed his frustration, claiming the process had been “hampered by Tory MPs, some of whom don’t want any devolution”.

But Conservative MPs hit back, criticising the council leaders approach to the talks and accusing them of staging a “power grab”.

The letter in full reads:

Dear Chancellor of the Exchequer,

With your 2016 Budget fast approaching we would like to urge the government to clearly signal an intent to swiftly complete a key missing piece in its Northern Powerhouse project by ensuring your forthcoming Budget speech includes real signs of progress towards a devolution deal for the Leeds City Region.

As the UK’s largest functional economic area outside London and the South East, the Leeds City Region is clearly central to your vision of an economically successful and globally competitive Northern Powerhouse being fulfilled.

As northern business and education leaders, we have major concerns about the continued absence of a meaningful devolution deal for such a significant economic area with a core city at its heart. We believe that further delays in securing such a deal would be to the detriment of jobs, growth and business investment, not just in our region but across the North and beyond.

We recognise that other proposals have been submitted covering different geographic areas within the wider Yorkshire and Humber area. As businesspeople, we do not wish to take sides on political matters: we believe firmly that economic outcomes and pragmatism should be the prevailing factors in determining how the region can share in the exciting opportunities of devolution soon.

From the evidence we have seen, the Leeds City Region deal seems to be the only option currently on the table that could be implemented in time for a democratically elected mayor to be in place by May 2017 – the same timescale to which Manchester, Sheffield and the other major city regions of the North are working.

A City Region deal now would be an important step towards more comprehensive devolution in Yorkshire, enabling 75% of the regional economy currently without devolution to have access to the benefits it presents quickly, with those benefits extending to the whole of the region as other proposals advance further.

Businesses are blind to administrative boundaries: what matters to us is the continued development of our region’s economy. On that basis, we ask that the Government recognise the strength of support among local businesses for deals that would bring a large part of our region in line with the other first wave devolution deals. It seems that the only pragmatic solution that could be implemented within a reasonable timescale is, in our view, a deal for the Leeds City Region, followed by others as soon as practicably possible.

If more can be achieved, so much the better – but it does not make sense to delay progress in such a large part of the region.

It would be encouraging if the Budget contained some signals that a devolution deal for Leeds City Region could be progressed soon. This is in the best interests of the region, of your Northern Powerhouse vision, and of the country.

Roger Marsh OBE, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership

Gerald Jennings, Leeds Chamber of Commerce

Andy Clarke, ASDA

Martin Hathaway, Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce

Andy Tuscher & June Smith, EEF

Andy Caton, Bradford Chamber of Commerce

Rashik Parmar,IBM

John Parkin, Leeds Bradford Airport

Paul Hamer,WYG plc

Adam Beaumont, aql

Edward Ziff, Town Centre Securities

Sir Alan Langlands, University of Leeds

Prof Peter Slee, Leeds Beckett University

Bob Cryan CBE, University of Huddersfield

John Heaps, Yorkshire Building Society

Amanda Beresford & Andrew Brockett, Shulmans LLP

Eric Hawthorn, Radio Design

Ian Gilbert and Philip Mudd, Walker Morris

Jon Kenny, CEG

Stuart Flack, Electronics Yorkshire

Stuart Clarke, Media Yorkshire

Andy Wood, Grant Thornton UK LLP

Ian Morrison, PwC

John Alderton, Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP

Mark Ridgway OBE DL, Joseph Rhodes Ltd

Mike Briffett, Turner & Townsend

Paul Connell, ODI Leeds

Paula Dillon, Bond Dickinson

Chris Schofield, Schofield Sweeney LLP

Nick Jaspan, Prolific North

Alex Craven, Bloom Agency

Wim Batist, BCA Group

William Ballman, Gateley Plc

Sophie Jewett, York Cocoa House

Simon Pringle, Project Rome Ltd

Robert McClements, Cdi Yorkshire

Nick Ramshaw, Thompson Brand Partners

John Bradley, Crompton Mouldings

Andy Welsh, Bradford College

Colin Booth, Leeds City College

Ian Billyard, Leeds College of Building

Nav Chohan, Shipley College

Peter McCann, Kirklees College

John Rees, Calderdale College

Richard Danon, Dantex

Robin Wright, Wyedean

Steven C.Bonfield, Chadwick Lawrence

Bill Lawrence, Reel Solutions (Film) LLP

Mark Prentice, Arkoni

Mark Barrow, Arcadis

Martin Doxey, Private Investor

Phil Ball, Curtis Furniture

Amanda Lennon

Beverley Parrish

Professor Mike Campbell

Andrew Wright, Reliance Precision Ltd

Peter Duffy, Peter Duffy Ltd

Charles Dunn, D & M Heritage Ltd and Dunn and Mills Limited

Professor David Weir, Fourth Paradigm Consulting

Gurdev Singh, North Wolds Printers Ltd

John Roberts, Roberts Mart & Co Ltd

Judith Charlesworth, Charlesworth Publishing Services Ltd

Max Crosland, M2 Management Services Limited

Matthew Morton, Morton Legal

Gareth Davies, Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd