Devolution and what it means for York & North Yorkshire
The City of York Council is working together with North Yorkshire County Council and the District Councils of Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Scarborough, Selby, Richmondshire and Ryedale to begin the process of agreeing a York and North Yorkshire devolution proposal.
A devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire could potentially unlock significant investment in the region, including investment in York’s transport infrastructure, like Haxby station, investment in low-carbon technologies, more affordable housing, funding to boost tourism and investment in major schemes, like York Central.
City of York Council is encouraging residents and local organisations to have their say on the first steps of a potential devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire, via Our Big Conversation.
What is devolution?
- English devolution is the transfer of power and funding associated with specific policy areas from the UK Government to sub-regional and local governments in England.
- The devolution process means the transfer of powers, funding and decisions which would usually be taken by central government to a more local or regional level.
- The government has pledged that English devolution can be a means of ‘levelling up’ all parts of the country and reducing regional inequalities.
- English devolution deals focus on boosting local economic growth. Funding and powers are usually devolved to support transport, skills, housing, planning and general economic development programmes in the combined authority area.
- Generally, each devolution deal includes a capital investment fund of hundreds of million pounds, which is paid in annual instalments over three decades. These funds can be used to finance transport, housing, and development projects.
What difference can devolution make?
Devolution from central government means that a region or sub-region has additional powers and responsibilities than they have now, so that:
- Decisions can be made closer to the communities they affect
- Spending is focused on local priorities and to attract increased government investment
- Local services work closer together and knowledge is combined to get better value for money
- The region becomes more self-sufficient and takes responsibility for its future
- The different values, ambitions and identities of the region are considered and reflected in decisions taken.
How does devolution work?
Over the last ten years, the Government has progressed a number of ‘devolution deals’ in other English sub-regions, to transfer funding on specific policy areas, along with appropriate powers to partnerships of local authorities, known as ‘Combined Authorities’. These deals typically last for 30 years and can bring in significant local investment.
Places that want devolution must:
- Become part of a joint body (a ‘Combined Authority’) with other places where decisions about these matters would be taken.
- Have a regional elected mayor who would work with councils through the Combined Authority to use the powers and resources gained through any deal.
The elected mayor has access to devolved powers and resources and acts as an individual to unite and work across the region. The elected Mayor can be held to account for decisions made on a regional level.
Examples of devolution deals include Liverpool, Manchester and West Midlands who have elected Mayors.
There are already decisions which are taken at a local level (for example, through councils like City of York Council/North Yorkshire County Council/Craven District Council), regionally (through Combined Authorities working with Local Enterprise Partnerships) and nationally by the Government. Devolution would primarily be about strengthening regional arrangements, with greater democratic accountability and powers to take decisions which are currently made in London.
Government has stated proposals for devolution should be ‘fiscally neutral’ – meaning they do not cost any more, overall, than current arrangements.
What’s been happening in Yorkshire?
As a region, we have been discussing devolution for many years and in 2018 leaders across Yorkshire committed to developing a joined-up deal for “One Yorkshire”.
The UK Government responded to this, making clear they would first prefer smaller devolved deals which focused on populations which shared similar economic challenges.
Since then, devolution deals have been agreed for South Yorkshire and, in March this year, a deal was agreed for West Yorkshire.
What’s happening in York & North Yorkshire?
The City of York Council is working together with North Yorkshire County Council and the District Councils of Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Scarborough, Selby, Richmondshire and Ryedale to negotiate with Government a devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire.
Discussions have taken place between all these councils to agree and set out a range of proposals (known as ‘Asks’) to Government.
What would this mean for you as a local resident?
At the moment, the Government in London makes the majority of decisions about what happens here in Yorkshire, and about what happens to you at a local level. Some decisions, such as those about foreign policy and defence, need to be made by central Government alone. However, with devolution, many other decisions, such as running and investing in our public transport, education and skills and providing support for our regional and local businesses, could be made by elected representatives from your region who are part of the community living and working in York and North Yorkshire.
This means that your local government, which has a clear understanding of the priorities and issues of your region, would have the power to make strategic financial and economic decisions to best benefit you and the local area.
What would the process be for agreeing a deal?
To reach a devolution deal there would first need to be agreement between all relevant local authority areas and Central Government about:
- What powers and responsibilities would be devolved
- What geography, and which local authorities, the deal would and wouldn’t cover
- How these new arrangements would be governed.
Once an in-principle agreement had been reached between Government and the proposed devolution area there would then be a process of setting up new arrangements ahead of the new powers and responsibilities being in place.
Where are we up to?
Throughout July 2020, meetings will take place at each council to formally agree to begin the process of negotiating a devolution deal with Government by agreeing to the ‘asks’ they collectively drew up.
The submitted proposals would be considered by Government over the following months. If agreed, a series of further steps would be taken over the next 12/18 months including local consultation with residents and other stakeholders with a view to Mayoral elections taking place in May 2022.
What is a LEP? What is a Combined Authority? What is the difference?
LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships) are voluntary business-led partnerships of local businesses, local authorities and other partners to promote economic growth across a “functional economic geography”. LEPs can bid for funding from government through ‘Growth Deals’.
Combined Authorities are statutory bodies within which local authorities work together to deliver economic development, regeneration and transport functions. The idea is that if local authorities work together on these issues, they can work more effectively.
A key difference between LEPs and Combined Authorities is that as Combined Authorities are statutory bodies they can act as accountable bodies for funding from Government.
York already has a Lord Mayor, what’s the difference?
The office of Lord Mayor is a ceremonial role which applies only to the City of York local authority area. The Government would create through legislation a new post of a regional mayor for the devolved area.
What would happen to local Council services?
Decisions about local Council services will continue to be taken at a local level.
What happens next?
The Council’s Executive will discuss a proposal regarding our ‘asks’ of Government at a meeting of the Executive on the 23rd July, in order to agree the ‘asks’ before they are sent to the Government for consideration, as has been published on the Council’s Forward Plan. The ‘asks’ documents relating to this meeting will be published on the 15th July.
If conversations between the Councils and Government progress well, a governance review will be required to take place, including a full consultation, which will provide residents and businesses a full opportunity to comment before decisions are made at Executive and then, Full Council.
How can I share my views?
Given the potential scale of funding that a devolution deal could unlock for York, City of York Council is encouraging residents and businesses to find out more on the Council’s website here and share their thoughts via Our Big Conversation.
After the submission of the asks, there will be a significant city wide consultation with residents, communities and businesses, and a further governance review will take place, if the asks are agreed by Government.