West Yorkshire councils call on neighbours to back devolution deal

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A devolution plan has been tabled which would see West Yorkshire team up with four neighbours to take greater control over their own affairs, The Yorkshire Post has learned.

West Yorkshire council leaders have written to their counterparts in Harrogate, Craven, Selby and York asking them to be part of a joint bid for new powers in areas such as transport, planning and local taxation.

It is understood that if the four authorities reject the idea, a West Yorkshire-only plan will be presented to the Government.

Talks had taken place over a ‘Greater Yorkshire’ bid bringing West Yorkshire, the whole of North Yorkshire, East Riding and Hull together to take powers from Whitehall.

But a figure close to the discussions said the Greater Yorkshire idea was “finished” and the focus was now on West Yorkshire and its close neighbours, an area known as the Leeds City Region.

Councils in South Yorkshire are expected to submit a separate bid in partnership with authorities in north Derbyshire and north Nottinghamshire.

George Osborne has offered areas the chance to gain more independence over their own affairs and wants initial bids submitted by September 4 with a view to announcing completed deals when the Government publishes its spending review in November.

Big Debate: Yorkshire at a crossroads over its devolution ambitions

The Chancellor has also made it clear adopting an elected mayor will be a condition for areas which want devolved powers.

It is not expected that the Leeds City Region bid would include an explicit commitment to have an elected mayor at this stage.

Council leaders in West Yorkshire have previously said the Government would have to offer a significant devolution deal before a change to the way the area is run is considered.

West and South Yorkshire sources have told The Yorkshire Post that devolved powers discussed in early exchanges with Government officials have been less ambitious than hoped.

Calls have been made for a single county-wide bid to unite the region and maximise the Yorkshire brand, particularly in areas such as tourism and attracting overseas investment.

A number of local government figures are known to sympathise with the idea but it has so far failed to attract sufficient support to get off the ground and with the September deadline approaching the focus appears to be shifting to bids with broader backing.

Harrogate Council leader Richard Cooper confirmed the authority had received West Yorkshire’s invitation.

He said: “We are looking at all options. Our preferred option is still a much wider Yorkshire model which we think has the brand and international reputation that will serve the people of Yorkshire much better.

“We are examining the options and in due course the full council will have a free vote.”

York Council leader Chris Steward also confirmed the invitation had been received.

Greater Manchester struck a devolution deal last year which included the creation of a new mayor and the area taking powers over housing, transport, police and fire services and given a bigger voice over how money for health and social care is spent.

YORKSHIRE’s response to the Government’s offer to devolve powers is the latest subject of The Yorkshire Post’s Big Debate series.

A panel of key figures will debate the major issues in front of an audience of readers of The Yorkshire Post in Leeds on September 17.

Humber Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Lord Haskins, Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, Andrew Carter from the Centre for Cities thinktank and Wakefield Council leader Peter Box are due to take part.

If you would like to attend please email jayne.lownsbrough@jpress.co.uk. Please also suggest a question you would like to ask.