York puts faith in Leeds City Region on economy

Barry Dodd, chairman of Connect Yorkshire.
Barry Dodd, chairman of Connect Yorkshire.
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York is to split from a public-private partnership promoting the North and East Yorkshire economy in a move that could shift control over the spending of millions of pounds in the region, the Yorkshire Post has learned.

The decision to leave the York and North Yorkshire with East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) comes as LEPs prepare to take a pivotal role over how large sums from Europe are spent in Yorkshire to help the economy and create jobs.

LEPs are also expected to play a central role in a major devolution of powers and money from Whitehall to the English regions due to be set out by the Government next month.

York’s move effectively commits it to working with the Leeds City Region LEP – a partnership it has with West Yorkshire councils, Barnsley, Harrogate and Craven – when it comes to developing major economic and infrastructure plans and bidding for the significant sums of Government and European money needed to support them.

In a joint statement, York Council leader James Alexander and York and North Yorkshire with East Riding LEP chairman Barry Dodd said: “We have worked extremely well together since the formation of the partnership, and developed excellent relationships over the last two years.

“There is an indisputable connection between the economy of York and the non Leeds City Region districts of North Yorkshire and the East Riding and we will continue to work collaboratively on these.

“In particular this will be in mutually important sectors such as growth in the tourism, agribusiness and in offering targeted financial support for small and medium sized businesses, alongside key business networks and support organisations across York, North Yorkshire and East Riding.”

Four LEPs, partnerships between councils and the private sector to strengthen the local economy, were created in Yorkshire following the Government’s decision to scrap regional development agencies including Yorkshire Forward.

York, Barnsley and East Riding Councils were among those that chose to be part of more than one partnership.

In a report for the Government on kickstarting growth last year, Lord Heseltine suggested the Government should create a pot worth as much as £79bn that could be spent by LEPs on local economic priorities rather than by Whitehall departments.

However, he expressed concerns about LEPs “overlapping” and suggested they should review their boundaries. Ministers will set out how they plan to implement Lord Heseltine’s recommendations as part of the Government’s spending review at the end of June and it remains to be seen whether they will force councils to choose.

East Riding Council is in the same position as York as a member of two LEPs but it is understood there have been no indications it is about to follow York’s example and choose to be part of one or the other.

York’s split from North Yorkshire and East Riding will take effect at the end of March next year when LEPs are expected to take the lead on deciding which projects get money from the European Regional Development Fund.

The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP has developed a range of plans including maximising the economic benefit of the potash mine due to open between Whitby and Scarborough and supporting moves by the Drax power station to develop carbon capture and storage and electricity-from-biomass technology.

It was keen to stress yesterday those plans will not be damaged by York’s decision to leave.