Wednesday, September 23, 2020

West Yorkshire devolution deal gathers pace

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority discussed progress towards finalising the landmark £1.8 billion West Yorkshire devolution deal at its meeting yesterday this week.

More than 4,500 people in total had their say on the deal, which will see the first ever West Yorkshire Mayor elected in May 2021, along with new investment and powers for the region in important areas such as transport, adult education and skills, and economic recovery from COVID-19.

Alongside the consultation, Combined Authority members discussed some of the investment that has already come to West Yorkshire as a result of the devolution deal.

This includes a £67 million allocation through the Government’s Brownfield Fund to invest in priority housing and development sites plus funding to prepare for the £63 million annual Adult Education Budget for the region to come under Combined Authority control in 2021.

In addition, as agreed in the West Yorkshire deal, £200,000 has been allocated to the Yorkshire Leaders’ Board for collaboration at a Yorkshire level.

Members also gave approval for the Combined Authority to join the influential M9 group of elected mayors – giving it a strong national voice alongside other mayoral combined authorities ahead of a Mayor being elected in May 2021 – and considered how a transfer of Police and Crime Commissioner functions to the Mayor and a proposed single West Yorkshire investment fund would work. This single investment fund would include the £38 million-a-year “gainshare” funding secured through the deal, which can be used flexibly to support local priorities.

In a joint statement after the meeting, West Yorkshire’s Council Leaders, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe (Bradford), Cllr Tim Swift (Calderdale), Cllr Shabir Pandor (Kirklees), Cllr Judith Blake (Leeds) and Cllr Denise Jeffery (Wakefield), commented:

“Following the record-breaking number of responses to our devolution deal consultation, it is fantastic to see the benefits of devolution already being felt in our region.

“The fact that we’ve already secured close to £70 million additional funding for West Yorkshire and have a seat at the table in key national discussions before our deal is fully formalised is a taster of the difference devolution will make.

“There is still a huge amount of work to do to prepare for the additional investment and decision-making powers that devolution will bring, but we have made a promising start and will be taking full advantage of all the new opportunities coming our way to support our region’s recovery from COVID-19.”

West Yorkshire’s councils and the Combined Authority will discuss the findings from the consultation at a series of public meetings in August and September.

These findings will inform the decision on how to proceed with the next stage of the parliamentary process to pave the way for mayoral elections in May 2021.

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