West Yorkshire says ‘yes’ to devolution deal
A clear yes from the region brings the deal to final stages in Parliament
All five West Yorkshire councils and the Combined Authority have given their approval to kick-start the parliamentary process that will deliver the investment and decision-making powers to the region agreed in the landmark West Yorkshire devolution deal.
Councils and the Combined Authority have all held public meetings over the past 10 days to consider the findings from a public consultation on the deal, and gave their consent to submit a summary of consultation responses to the Secretary of State for Communities, Housing and Local Government, Robert Jenrick. The Government will now begin the Parliamentary process to cement the devolution deal in law.
Kirklees Council was the final council to give its consent at a full council meeting yesterday, following endorsements by Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds and Wakefield councils, plus the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. This confirmed the unanimous support from councils in the region for the deal to progress to Parliament, with voters set to elect the first West Yorkshire Mayor in May 2021.
These meetings were in line with feedback from over 4,400 West Yorkshire residents who participated in the public consultation on the deal. The majority of respondents supported the proposals to establish a directly elected Mayor for the region with responsibility for key areas, such as transport improvements, adult education and skills, housing and regeneration and economic recovery from COVID-19.
The devolution deal, which West Yorkshire’s five council leaders agreed with the Government in March 2020, will bring at least an additional £1.8 billion public investment to the region over the next 30 years, plus greater freedoms to take decisions locally on the issues that affect communities. Extra investment is already coming to the region ahead of the deal becoming law and the region has joined the M9 group of mayoral combined authorities, giving it stronger national influence alongside the other elected mayors in England.
The new investment will build on more than 15 years of successful partnership working between West Yorkshire councils and the wider Leeds City Region, which includes securing the £1.2 billion local enterprise partnership (LEP) Growth Deal, – the country’s largest – establishing a £1 billion Transport Fund to deliver local transport improvements in West Yorkshire and York, and supporting businesses in the region through the COVID-19 pandemic by distributing close to £500 million of government grants.
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:
“Our West Yorkshire councils have now consulted on the mayoral devolution deal, and submitted the findings to Government. We are pleased that it has the backing from our respective councils and the large majority of those who responded to our public consultation. It is now over to the Government to prepare the draft legislation.
Our local areas are already seeing the benefits of the deal through the early funding we’ve secured to develop brownfield sites for housing, deliver much-needed transport improvements and support people to develop the skills to find good work in a challenging job market.
“COVID-19 has highlighted just how crucial it is that decisions which affect local communities are taken by people who know and understand those communities, supported by the investment to deliver on local priorities. This deal is the critical starting point to ensuring West Yorkshire is able to make the strongest possible recovery from this crisis and prosper in future.”
The eight-week public consultation on the devolution deal was a key part of the legal process to establish a mayoral combined authority for the region to take on the new powers and investment. It was the largest ever public consultation on English regional devolution with over 4,400 responses.
Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, will use the consultation findings to decide whether the devolution proposals reflect the interests and identities of West Yorkshire’s communities. If agreed, a legal document known as an “order” will be produced, setting out how the powers and functions of the Mayor and mayoral combined authority will operate. West Yorkshire’s councils will be asked to give their consent to this order in November 2020, with mayoral elections due to take place in May 2021.
Spotlight: What the devolution deal will mean for local areas
The devolution deal will give West Yorkshire communities a greater say about the issues that affect them, plus extra investment to deliver on local priorities. This will include a £100 million+ a year single investment fund for the whole of West Yorkshire, with the Mayor and local council leaders deciding how this will be spent.
Here are some of the projects already earmarked for support in each West Yorkshire district
- £500,000 of Government funding to support master planning in Bradford City Centre to maximise regeneration opportunities from Northern Powerhouse Rail – a city centre high speed stop would add up to £15 billion to the North’s economy
- A package of measures to transform Bradford city centre through pedestrianisation, new cycle infrastructure and better access to Bradford Interchange
- A new park-and-ride for South Bradford providing alternative access to the city centre and key employment sites
- The Government has also committed to working with Bradford Council on developing the district’s Act Early research hub which focuses on early interventions in childhood health to improve lives and opportunities for children and their families, building on the world-renowned work of Born in Bradford
- A new bus station for Halifax and a new rail station for Elland
- Improved access to Halifax rail station, including a new footbridge
- Improved accessibility in Halifax, enabling people to travel more easily by bike or on foot into and across the town centre
- Improved routes by bike or on foot to the new Elland rail station
- Improved access to Dewsbury town centre with a revitalised bus station and high quality walking and cycling routes within the town centre and to Kirklees College
- Improved public transport to and within Huddersfield town centre, with a refurbished bus station, upgrades to Huddersfield Rail Station and new cycling and walking routes linking the stations and neighbouring areas
- Improvements to bus interchanges and waiting facilities with a new bus hub at Heckmondwike
- Improvements to bus reliability and cycling between Batley and a major development site at Chidswell and on towards Leeds
- £25 million to support the development of a British Library North in Leeds
- Funding to support the redevelopment of Leeds rail station to prepare the city for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. This includes major works to the front of the station to improve access for people travelling to the station by foot or on bike, including a 700 space secure cycle parking facility
- New high quality cycle infrastructure to link communities on the edge of the city centre with new jobs and colleges both in the city centre in Leeds South Bank by bike
- New bus priority measures in east Leeds to improve capacity for commuters travelling into Leeds city centre as well as reduce congestion and improve reliability for residents and commuters
- A new rail station at White Rose to increase capacity for future employment growth and provide greater access to jobs and education opportunities for the communities of Churwell, Millshaw and Cottingley
- The transformation of Wakefield city centre with a reduction of traffic in the Northern and Civic Quarters, complemented by improvements to cycle and walking routes
- A new cycle route between Wakefield Kirkgate rail station and the town centre and improved access to Wakefield bus station by foot
- New bus priority and cycling and walking infrastructure on the A61 and A639 corridors, making it easier to travel sustainably between Leeds and Wakefield and reducing dependence on cars