Hull approaches West Yorkshire over combined authority membership

HULL has approached West Yorkshire council leaders over the possibility of the city joining the area’s combined authority, The Yorkshire Post has learned.

Hull could become part of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority
Hull could become part of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority

The move is a further twist in the ongoing debate over how powers and money should be moved from central government to local control in Yorkshire.

Hull has so far sided with councils calling for a ‘Greater Yorkshire’ deal which would see devolved powers wielded across a single area taking in West, North and East Yorkshire.

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However, the latest move raises the possibility of the city throwing its lot in with West Yorkshire leaders who have been arguing for a ‘Leeds City Region’ agreement covering West Yorkshire, York, Harrogate, Selby and Craven.

Hull is asking to join the West Yorkshire Combined Authority - which oversees the spending of millions of pounds in areas such as transport and skills to try and grow its local economy - as an associate member.

York is already an associate member of the authority, a status which means it is up to the other full members to decide whether it can vote on any given issue.

The Yorkshire Post understands no decision has been taken over whether to admit Hull but West Yorkshire leaders have not rejected the idea out of hand.

Hull City Council confirmed the approach has been made but declined to comment further.

South Yorkshire is so far the only part of the region to strike a devolution deal with the Government as part of the Sheffield City Region group of authorities. The deal will see the area have an elected mayor from 2017.

George Osborne has previously indicated he wanted to see devolution agreements reached before the outcome of his review of Government spending, due to be published next week.

Local government sources close to both the Leeds City Region and Greater Yorkshire proposals have suggested, in the absence of a major development, there is little chance of agreement being reached by next week with both sides stressing the priority is to achieve the best outcome.

A new report from the IPPR North thinktank warns the Government’s devolution process could leave counties behind.

The report criticises the Government’s “one size fits all” approach which insists areas adopt elected mayors in return for more powers over their own affairs.

It urges Ministers to make the devolution process more transparent, claiming it has so far been dictated by “unwritten rules”.

IPPR North director Ed Cox said: “Counties need devolution every bit as much as the big cities and, with the right support and empowerment, there is a massive opportunity to unleash their economic potential.

“Devolution deals can drive economic development, but the process needs far more understanding and flexibility from government to work for the counties, who have different needs and organisational structures.

“The danger otherwise is a one-size-fits-all approach to mayors means huge swathes of the country are cut off from the benefits of devolution, stymieing their potential to grow and reform public services.”