Devolution deal set to provide huge financial opportunities

This story was published 26 September 2022

A much-anticipated devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire would provide one of the best financial agreements secured from the Government in the North of England as a foundation for bringing a host of benefits for hundreds of thousands of people.

Cllr Carl Les at proposed devolution deal launch

The proposed agreement for devolution for York and North Yorkshire has been unveiled after intense negotiations between councillors and council officers were undertaken with the Government’s Ministers and civil servants in London.

Analysis which has been conducted by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has revealed that the proposed deal would provide the second highest amount of funding per head of population in York and North Yorkshire for an investment fund totalling £540 million over a 30-year period when compared to the existing six agreements for devolution across the North of England.

While other devolution deals have secured additional funding for specific projects ranging from housing-building to transport improvements and boosting education and skills, the investment fund is seen as one of the key elements of any agreement as it provides flexibility to target money to specific schemes on a far more local level.

The so-called gainshare, which is the money provided by the Government annually for the investment fund, would equate to £23.31 per head of population under the proposed deal for York and North Yorkshire.

The only agreement in the North of England that has a higher figure is the devolution deal secured for the North of Tyne, which provides £24.69 per person under its investment fund.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership said the fact that York and North Yorkshire have been given a comparable proposed settlement is a “significant recognition” by the Government of the opportunities across the area.

By comparison, gainshare funding per head of population in South Yorkshire equates to £21.81, the figure is £16.68 in West Yorkshire and £22.47 in the Tees Valley.

The Liverpool City Region’s devolution deal provides £19.68 per head of population through the annual gainshare, while the figure is £10.88 in Greater Manchester.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s chief executive, Henri Murison, said: “The £540 million which York and North Yorkshire has secured should go a long way towards transforming public services and driving up productivity in the region. 

“Whether this means improving education and skills, providing better transport links, tackling climate change or ensuring better quality jobs and career opportunities, the funding under the investment fund is a vital resource for any devolution deal.

“Most importantly, the deal means the region gets a directly-elected mayor who will remain accountable to their voters. 

“The very nature of devolution is about bespoke, local solutions which means that it’s normal to see some variation in what each authority has received in terms of funding.

“It’s also important to remember that the investment fund is just one element of any deal. Greater Manchester, for example, also has a housing investment fund.”

The leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Cllr Carl Les, claimed that the detailed negotiations which began at the start of the year with Ministers in Westminster and civil servants in Whitehall had reaped the benefits of securing the proposed devolution deal.

He said: “Devolution has been an aspiration for North Yorkshire for many years now, and initial discussions happened between local leaders in the region almost a decade ago.

“It will provide us with the opportunity to make decisions which will make a huge difference to the people who live and work in the county at a far more local level, and not relying on the Government to make those decisions for us.

“Whether that is better paid jobs and more career opportunities, more homes to tackle the affordable housing crisis or improved transport links, the proposed deal would see benefits that will remain for generations to come.

“The fact that we have managed to secure such a good proposed deal is testament to the hard work and tenacity of all involved during the negotiations, and that is set to provide as with the strongest foundations going forward to ensure devolution works for everyone in York and North Yorkshire.”

The leader of City of York Council, Cllr Keith Aspden, added: “Devolution and the significant investment secured as part of the proposed deal represent a real opportunity for our city and the county.

“Throughout the negotiation process, it’s been crucial for us to secure a deal, which would recognise York’s challenges and opportunities to make a real difference to our communities and invest in their priorities – from housing and education, to environment and transport.

“Councillors are currently reviewing the proposed deal and subject to their agreement, we will move forward with plans to ask the residents and businesses of York for their views on this opportunity to secure new powers and bring millions of pounds of investment that can help shape York’s future for decades to come.”

Devolution is a key policy of the Government, handing over decision-making powers to local political leaders and providing millions of pounds in funding to shape hugely important policies and projects on a regional level.

The proposed deal for York and North Yorkshire, which was unveiled on August 1 at the National Railway Museum in York, would see the introduction of an influential mayor who would become a figurehead for the region and forge close links with the Government.

The new mayor, who would be elected in May 2024 if the proposed deal comes to fruition, would lead a new powerful combined authority that would oversee strategic projects ranging from major transport improvements and boosting skills and education to providing more affordable housing.

North Yorkshire County Council, City of York Council and district and borough authorities undertook negotiations with the Government to draw up the proposed devolution deal.

Councillors have reviewed the proposed deal over the summer and will collectively decide whether to proceed to a consultation with the public. The consultation could then take place from next month if councillors on both North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council give the go-ahead.