North Yorkshire Council opposition raises devolution funding concerns

Critics of the proposed devolution moves for North Yorkshire and York have claimed the division of Government funding is turning out as iniquitous as they feared as it emerged a disproportionate amount of money awarded to kick start net zero projects looks set to be pumped into York-based schemes.

Since proposals were first tabled by North Yorkshire and York councils for the proposed York and North Yorkshire Devolution Deal opposition politicians in the county have raised concerns that with equal representation on a combined authority York would get a disproportionate share of resources.

They have pointed towards how York’s council has 203,000 residents across a 105 square mile area, while North Yorkshire’s local authority is charged with serving about 615,000 residents across an area of 2,483 square miles.

An officer’s report to a meeting of the council’s Joint Devolution Committee on Monday (October 23) outlines proposals to allocate £7m funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to a programme of projects designed to aid York and North Yorkshire’s ambition to be net zero by 2034.

The report states an assessment panel made up of representatives from the York and  North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, North Yorkshire and York councils and the North East and Yorkshire Net Zero Hub assessed 113 applications for funding and have recommended 24 projects share the funding.

The largest proposed grant, some £243,5000, would go towards City of York Council’s Harewood Whin Green Energy Park, while the next largest sum, £187,500 would be spent on a Green Energy Park at Seamer Carr and decarbonising Allerton Waste Recovery Park, where waste is managed for both councils.

Other projects set to receive funding include Shore Power at Scarborough and Whitby Harbours (£47,084); establishing an action plan for regenerative farming in York and North Yorkshire (£75,000) and North Wigginton Onshore Wind Project (£50,000).

The report says the schemes will enable York and North Yorkshire to develop a strong pipeline of strategic, investment-ready net zero projects “that will drive green economic growth across the economy and the delivery of the region’s carbon targets”.

The report outlines about £3.3m of capital projects in North Yorkshire and about £3m of schemes in York, including moorland restoration, decarbonising community buildings, and street lighting LED conversions.

North Yorkshire Council’s Independent group leader, Councillor Stuart Parsons said by agreeing to the proposals the authority had “failed all the rural communities it has, and even its urban communities”.

He said while the overwhelming majority of residents lived in North Yorkshire a significantly disproportionate amount of the funding was heading towards York.

Coun Parsons said: “It is what we always thought would happen and gives a good indication of how things will probably continue. They should be starting from the point of equality per head of population, but they have obviously decided that’s not going to happen.

“We don’t know who is going to win the mayoral election, but it could lead to some quite difficult situations. If York remains Labour and North Yorkshire remains Conservative the combined authority’s discussions around funding could prove intriguing and I don’t think will come out fair to North Yorkshire.”

North Yorkshire Council’s Labour group leader, Councillor Steve Shaw Wright said from the start of devolution process “lots of things have appeared to be slanted towards York”.

He said while York had fairly centralised issues North Yorkshire’s concerns were dispersed over a huge area and devolution would not be as easy in York and North Yorkshire as it had been in West or South Yorkshire.

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