West Yorkshire’s £1.8 billion devolution deal takes next steps towards becoming law following record-breaking consultation
Findings from public consultation on the deal to be considered by councils and the Combined Authority at public meetings
The process to bring West Yorkshire’s £1.8 billion devolution deal into law will take further steps forward in the coming weeks as the region’s five councils, plus the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, formally consider the outcomes of a public consultation on the deal.
The consultation findings will be discussed in public over the coming weeks at virtual meetings of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield councils, and a virtual meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
Councils and the Combined Authority will be asked to agree to submit a summary of the consultation findings to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, beginning the parliamentary process that is expected to culminate in voters electing the first ever West Yorkshire Mayor in May 2021.
A total of 4,413 people responded to the West Yorkshire devolution consultation, making it the largest ever public consultation on English regional devolution. Most respondents supported all of the proposals, which include establishing a directly elected mayor for the region with additional powers and investment in areas including transport, adult education and skills, housing and development.
The devolution deal also proposes that Police and Crime Commissioner responsibilities would transfer to the Mayor, bringing together efforts to promote community safety and cohesion with work to support economic regeneration and inclusive growth. Again, this proposal was supported by the majority of respondents.
In a joint statement, West Yorkshire’s five council Leaders, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe (Bradford), Cllr Tim Swift (Calderdale), Cllr Shabir Pandor (Kirklees), Cllr Judith Blake (Leeds) and Cllr Denise Jeffery (Wakefield) said:
“We would like to thank everyone who took part in this consultation and are looking forward to fully considering the views that so many of our residents have taken the time to share in our full council meetings.
“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted, more than ever, why it’s important that decisions which affect local people are taken locally, by people who understand local communities and are accountable to residents. Devolution means that more of these vital decisions will be taken here in West Yorkshire and will provide greater investment to help our region recover from the pandemic.
“It’s encouraging, therefore, that most people who responded to the consultation support the proposals on the table. We will be taking just as much interest, however, in some of the other comments provided so that the way we approach devolution in West Yorkshire truly addresses local people’s concerns. In particular we are pleased that funding has been provided through this deal for the Yorkshire Leaders Board to continue collaborating on a Yorkshire-wide basis on a number of key issues.”
The public consultation was a key part of the legal process that will enable West Yorkshire to take on the additional investment and powers that council Leaders negotiated with the Government in March 2020 through the largest devolution deal of its kind ever agreed.
In addition to the 4,413 people who responded to the consultation, a campaign to ensure that as many people as possible were able to take part despite COVID-19 restrictions is estimated to have created 1.8 million opportunities for local people to learn about the devolution proposals and have their say. There were over 47,000 visits to the dedicated consultation web pages alone.
The consultation has been endorsed as “good practice” by The Consultation Institute.
Once all five councils and the Combined Authority have considered the consultation findings a summary report will be sent to the Secretary of State, along with a draft “order” that will set out new governance arrangements for the mayoral combined authority.
If the Secretary of State is satisfied that these arrangements will improve how functions such as transport, adult skills, housing and development are delivered in West Yorkshire, and that they reflect the identities and interests of local communities, the parliamentary process to establish the mayoral combined authority will begin, with the first ever West Yorkshire mayoral elections held in May 2021.
The region has already begun to see the benefits of devolution, despite the deal itself not yet being enshrined in law, having secured close to £70 million that is only available to mayoral combined authorities. This includes a £67 million allocation from the Government’s Brownfield Fund to invest in priority housing and development sites.