The prospect of a long-awaited devolution deal will bring a raft of benefits ranging from new and better-paid jobs to more affordable housing for hundreds of thousands of people, according to council leader Carl Les.
Proposals for devolution were unveiled this month to give a greater say for local politicians in York and North Yorkshire to improve prosperity, provide better skills and education and boost transport links across England’s largest county.
The shift of decision-making powers from Westminster to York and North Yorkshire along with millions of pounds in funding would also see the introduction of an influential mayor who would become a figurehead for the region and forge close links with the Government.
The proposed 30-year deal includes total funding of more than £540m, which has been guaranteed by the Government.
Cllr Les said he believed the benefits from devolution would be felt for generations to come, as the proposed deal would evolve to bring more funding and decision-making powers through future negotiations with the Government.
He added: “The opportunities which a devolution deal will bring to both York and North Yorkshire cannot be overstated.
“This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring greater parity for the region, allowing us to have more decision-making powers and a greater say on where money can be directed and spent to benefit the hundreds of thousands of people who live and work in York and North Yorkshire. I truly believe this proposed deal is one that will work for everyone, tackling a wide range of issues from improving skills and education to bringing in more investment, helping improve transport links and providing much-needed affordable housing.
“The vital services provided by councils in York and North Yorkshire – from road maintenance and school transport to planning and home care – will continue, and the proposed devolution deal would allow major projects to be developed.”
The proposed deal would be the first in the country of its kind to focus on a vast rural region, allowing the chance to tackle ingrained problems for countryside communities, as well as establishing an investment fund with £18m available annually.
Details of the deal were announced on 1 August to coincide with Yorkshire Day, and there is a particular focus on evolving North Yorkshire’s traditional industries, such as farming, while embracing new sectors such as green technology.
A key element of the proposed deal would be to bolster the local economy and attract a wave of new enterprise.
The new mayor for York and North Yorkshire, who would be elected in May 2024 if the proposed deal comes to fruition, would lead a new powerful combined authority, which would oversee strategic projects ranging from major transport improvements and boosting skills and education to providing more affordable housing and supporting action to reduce harmful carbon emissions.
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What is devolution?
Devolution is a key Government policy, handing decision-making powers to local political leaders and providing millions of pounds in funding to shape important policies and projects on a regional level.
The announcement of a proposed devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire comes in the wake of agreements secured with the Government in other parts of the country. Deals already in place in the North of England cover West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, the Tees Valley and the North of Tyne.
Devolution has resulted in more effective and tailored policy-making for the regions that have secured deals. Policies for hugely important issues such as transport, education and skills and economic development can take account of the needs and priorities of local communities.
What will happen next?
The proposed devolution deal follows detailed discussions between politicians, senior council officers and the Government. North Yorkshire County Council, City of York Council and district and borough authorities undertook negotiations with the Government.
Councillors will review the proposed deal over the summer and collectively decide whether to proceed to a public consultation.
The consultation could take place later this year. The proposed devolution deal comes amid the biggest overhaul of local government in North Yorkshire for nearly 50 years.
The Government stipulated that a key requirement for any devolution deal was for the two-tier system of local government in North Yorkshire, with the county council and seven district and borough authorities, to be replaced by a single unitary authority.
City of York Council will continue as a unitary authority to run in tandem with the new North Yorkshire Council, which will launch on 1 April next year.