Plans to progress proposed devolution deal backed

This story was published 24 February 2023

The Government has been urged to press ahead with plans to bring a host of benefits to hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses in North Yorkshire through a much-anticipated devolution deal.

A group at the devolution launch

Members have today (Friday, 24 February) backed proposals at a full council meeting to send the results of a public consultation to Ministers to progress plans to create a mayoral combined authority.

Residents, businesses and charity and voluntary organisations took part in the consultation in York and North Yorkshire to gather the public’s views on the proposed devolution deal, which would give more funding and far greater decision-making powers to the region.

Most respondents were generally in favour of the proposed governance of the devolution deal, with organisations including the Tees Valley Combined Authority, the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network recognising that it is a tried and tested model for building strong local leadership with new powers.

The plans for devolution, which is a key policy under the Government’s levelling up agenda, are set to bring wide-ranging benefits to the 615,000 residents and more than 32,000 businesses in North Yorkshire, including new jobs, more affordable housing and measures to tackle climate change.

Following support from the public for the proposed deal, it is hoped that a combined authority, which would be responsible for overseeing devolved decision-making powers and millions of pounds of funding for both York and North Yorkshire, will be established later this year. Mayoral elections would follow in 2024.

Council leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “The decision by members at full council today represents the latest milestone in the journey to bringing devolution to North Yorkshire.

“The benefits of devolution are clearly evident elsewhere in Yorkshire, and we are committed to making sure that North Yorkshire is also given the chance to see the real opportunities that decision-making on a far more local level would bring.

“I would urge Ministers to progress plans following the support that devolution has received from the public. The creation of a mayoral combined authority later this year would then help pave the way for what I do believe is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring devolution to North Yorkshire which will help transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”

The combined authority is set to be overseen by an elected mayor, co-ordinating key strategic projects ranging from major transport improvements and boosting skills and education to providing more affordable housing in York and North Yorkshire.

The mayor would act as an influential figurehead for York and North Yorkshire, developing close links with the Government to secure more funding and decision-making powers as the devolution deal evolves over the coming years.

The public consultation was conducted in North Yorkshire under the Let’s Talk banner, which asked for people’s views on the proposed devolution deal. People were also asked how the new North Yorkshire Council, which will launch on April 1, will serve local communities and as well as its financial priorities.

A total of 1,943 people completed the survey in full for the devolution element of the public consultation, expressing views on a range of topics including housing, transport, skills and employment and climate change. The response rate is understood to have compared favourably to other devolution engagement campaigns with the public elsewhere in the country.

The eight-week consultation ran until 16 December, and views were gathered through face-to-face engagement events, an online survey and via letters and emails.

A total of 54% of respondents online either strongly supported or supported the proposed governance of the mayoral combined authority, while 32% were opposed or strongly opposed with the remainder not expressing a view or stating they did not know.

Work to curb climate change that is due to be introduced through devolution was welcomed, especially to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as well as promoting more sustainable transport.

A total of 63% of respondents online either strongly supported or supported plans for the proposed combined authority to work with the Government on climate change, while 23% were opposed or strongly opposed with the remainder not expressing a view or stating they did not know.

Cllr Les, who will assume the leadership of North Yorkshire Council from 1 April, stressed that the mayor is due to be elected by residents of York and North Yorkshire so they would be directly accountable to the electorate at the ballot box. Their activities would also be scrutinised by an overview and scrutiny committee.

Cllr Les added: “It would be vital that the mayoral combined authority would work closely with both the new North Yorkshire Council and City of York Council to listen and ensure the views and priorities of communities and businesses across the whole area are represented.”

Members of City of York Council agreed yesterday (Thursday, 23 February) to send the results of the public engagement to the Government to consider creating the mayoral combined authority for York and North Yorkshire.