Progress towards West Yorkshire devolution deal gathers pace
West Yorkshire already seeing the benefits of devolution, with new funding coming to the region ahead of the deal being fully formalised.
The West Yorkshire Combined Authority discussed progress towards finalising the landmark £1.8 billion West Yorkshire devolution deal at its meeting yesterday (27 July), one week after the largest ever public consultation on English regional devolution closed.
More than 4,500 people in total had their say on the deal, which will see the first ever West Yorkshire Mayor elected in May 2021, along with new investment and powers for the region in important areas such as transport, adult education and skills, and economic recovery from COVID-19.
In addition to those who took part directly in the consultation, information about these important changes to decision-making are estimated to have created over 1.8 million opportunities for people in the region to learn about devolution and have their say, thanks to local media advertising, social media and engagement with local communities during the eight-week consultation period. There were over 47,000 visits to the dedicated consultation web pages to learn more.
Alongside the consultation, Combined Authority members discussed some of the investment that has already come to West Yorkshire as a result of the devolution deal. This includes a £67 million allocation through the Government’s Brownfield Fund to invest in priority housing and development sites plus funding to prepare for the £63 million annual Adult Education Budget for the region to come under Combined Authority control in 2021. In addition, as agreed in the West Yorkshire deal, £200,000 has been allocated to the Yorkshire Leaders’ Board for collaboration at a Yorkshire level.
Members also gave approval for the Combined Authority to join the influential M9 group of elected mayors – giving it a strong national voice alongside other mayoral combined authorities ahead of a Mayor being elected in May 2021 – and considered how a transfer of Police and Crime Commissioner functions to the Mayor and a proposed single West Yorkshire investment fund would work. This single investment fund would include the £38 million-a-year “gainshare” funding secured through the deal, which can be used flexibly to support local priorities.
In a joint statement after the meeting, West Yorkshire’s Council Leaders, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe (Bradford), Cllr Tim Swift (Calderdale), Cllr Shabir Pandor (Kirklees), Cllr Judith Blake (Leeds) and Cllr Denise Jeffery (Wakefield), commented:
“Following the record-breaking number of responses to our devolution deal consultation, it is fantastic to see the benefits of devolution already being felt in our region. The fact that we’ve already secured close to £70 million additional funding for West Yorkshire and have a seat at the table in key national discussions before our deal is fully formalised is a taster of the difference devolution will make.
“There is still a huge amount of work to do to prepare for the additional investment and decision-making powers that devolution will bring, but we have made a promising start and will be taking full advantage of all the new opportunities coming our way to support our region’s recovery from COVID-19.”
West Yorkshire’s councils and the Combined Authority will discuss the findings from the consultation at a series of public meetings in August and September. These findings will inform the decision on how to proceed with the next stage of the parliamentary process to pave the way for mayoral elections in May 2021.
On 11 March 2020 West Yorkshire Leaders and Government signed a ‘minded to’ devolution deal for West Yorkshire. The deal sets out a raft of new powers, funding and responsibilities to be transferred from central Government to West Yorkshire, along with the adoption of a directly elected Mayor from May 2021. Key elements of the deal include:
- £38 million per year ‘gainshare’ for 30 years into the West Yorkshire Single Investment Fund with significant freedoms to spend on local priorities.
- Control of the £63 million annual Adult Education Budget for West Yorkshire
- £3.2 million to support the development of a pipeline of housing sites across West Yorkshire
- Government commitment to work with West Yorkshire to develop a modern mass transit system through access to a new five-year integrated transport settlement – a share of a £4.2 billion fund for mayoral combined authorities
- £317 million to invest in public transport, cycling and walking through the Transforming Cities Fund with local flexibility on delivery
- a £25 million fund to support the development of a British Library North in Leeds
- a Government commitment to deliver flooding schemes worth £101 million
- £500,000 to support master planning for Bradford City Centre in order to maximise the benefits of Northern Powerhouse Rail
- £200,000 Government funding for collaboration at a Yorkshire level through the Yorkshire Leaders Board