YORKSHIRE: Both the Leeds City Region and the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have approved a merger at board meetings held this week.
It is claimed such a deal will prepare the region for the new UK shared prosperity fund, which is due to replace European funding after Brexit, and could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
The current North Yorkshire, York and East Riding LEP announced last Friday they wanted to create a new LEP with West Yorkshire, and wrote to local government secretary James Brokenshire announcing their intentions.
At the Leeds LEP meeting on Thursday, the organisation’s chair Roger Marsh said: “It would be good if we could issue a joint statement to say this is what we are going to do, rather than have people read between lines and come to unhealthy conclusions.
“We have already asked the secretary of state if it is appropriate for what we are trying to do as a region. I want to share the letter with the wider community so they can see what we have written.”
The plan follows a government review into LEPs, which called for improvements in leadership, performance and the removal of overlaps between areas.
The new proposed LEP would cover the unitary and district council areas of Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Kirklees, Hambleton, Harrogate, Leeds, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby, Wakefield and York plus North Yorkshire County Council.
It is expected that Barnsley, which is currently part of the Leeds City Region, will remain with the Sheffield City Region LEP, while the East Riding area that forms part of the existing York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP will remain part of the Humber LEP.
Deputy leader of York Council Coun Andrew Waller (Lib Dem) said: “It has been difficult for us as an overlap area – we could have been presented with an awkward choice, but this works for the economic geography.”
Mr Marsh concluded: “It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not going to be impossible. If we focus on the prize and not be too firm on these being immovable barriers. We need to look at how to work our way through this.”
“I hope people are happy with this, I am not sure of the secretary of state’s response, but we have been asked to come up with what we think is the right answer, and that is what we have done.”
Following the meeting, a joint statement between Mr Marsh and York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP David Kerfoot read: “Our respective LEPs have achieved a great deal over the past seven years, from putting in place nationally-acclaimed rural business support schemes to securing major investment for new transport and broadband infrastructure.
“Now we have an opportunity to do even more for the rural, coastal and urban communities we represent, by bringing together elements of our existing LEP geographies into a combined engine for extraordinary economic growth that will enable all parts of our region to prosper.
“We also have the opportunity to learn from each other’s strengths and achievements – for example extending the successful Grow Yorkshire initiative in York and North Yorkshire to support rural businesses in West Yorkshire as the UK prepares to leave the EU, and enabling people in North Yorkshire to share in major transport and broadband investment.
“Of course there will be details to resolve over the coming months, but we approach this new phase with a clear sense of the opportunity we have to secure a bigger share of the prize through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and a shared optimism of what we can achieve together for our region and all its communities.”
The full merger is expected to be complete by April 2020.