A strong devolution deal under a mayoral combined authority is paramount to ensure the region is not left behind, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said today.
Standing on Croft-on-Tees Bridge – which links the Tees Valley region to North Yorkshire - the Mayor spoke of the very significant economic and local decision-making benefits which accompany a devolution deal.
Negotiations for a deal for York and North Yorkshire are at an advanced stage and would see hundreds of millions of pounds invested here to supercharge the region’s economy, creating jobs, improving skills and to driving better, more reliable transport infrastructure.
But to be eligible to bid for a devolution deal, the Government has said the 9 councils currently delivering public services in York and North Yorkshire need to end the two tier system, streamlining it, to pave the way for a mayoral combined authority.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, said: “North Yorkshire is at a critical crossroads at a key moment. As we recover from the Coronavirus pandemic, the need to deliver economic growth, create good quality jobs and boost skills has never been more important. We need to take every opportunity to bridge the economic gap between north and south and provide fairer opportunities for all.
“A strong mayor working across the border with the Tees Valley would undoubtedly help me to make the case for the north and ensure it punches its weight nationally and internationally.
“This all starts though with a strong devolution deal and York and North Yorkshire must not miss the moment and risk getting left behind.
“I sincerely hope that councils across York and North Yorkshire will seize this moment and make sure that all proposals for the future local government in the county are given due consideration by the Government without delay. The Tees Valley benefitted from its councils coming together and getting its devolution deal over the line while other areas found reasons to disagree, now North Yorkshire has a similar choice.”
Cllr Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said: “I often look across the border to the Tees Valley with a sense of envy at the terrific investment and empowerment the mayoral combined authority and devolution of power have delivered there. While I have no mayoral ambitions personally – I can see the strength of voice and influence this approach delivers and believe strongly that our region would benefit hugely from it.
“It’s no secret that, in response to the order from Government to end the current county and district model of service delivery, we are developing a proposal for a new single council for North Yorkshire. We believe this proposal would protect the county’s identified boundaries and create a stronger and simpler council to serve the whole of the county’s population. We also seek to preserve the City of York in our proposal. As a unitary council, York has already delivered the financial benefits associated with streamlining council service delivery.
“We advocate a double devolution deal model – whereby money and powers would come from Whitehall to the town hall and then town hall to village hall – for those town and parish councils that would like that.
“However we also accept that there are other proposals and believe that all bids should be put forward to the Secretary of State so they can be considered on their merits alongside each other. It would then be for Government to take a view and consult with the public.
“I am pleased to have had the opportunity to hear from someone who is at the forefront of lobbying for investment and jobs as part of the devolution agenda and very much hope that these are benefits that residents and businesses across York and North Yorkshire will be able to enjoy in the not too distant future.”