A devolution deal for North Yorkshire and York looks set to be announced by the government in just over a week, following fears recent ministerial resignations and sackings could derail the process.
After almost 20 months of negotiations between North Yorkshire and York council leaders and officers, government ministers and Whitehall officials, the extent of transfer of power and funding associated with specific policy areas from Westminster to Northallerton is due to be revealed before the summer Parliamentary recess starts on July 21.
It is believed the deal for York and North Yorkshire could potentially unlock around £2.4bn of investment over 30 years, with a focus on improving economic prosperity, creating more affordable housing and lead to the area becoming England’s first carbon negative economy.
Key to the asks which were put forward in December 2020 by every first and second tier council in the area except Hambleton, are wishes to take charge of delivering improved digital connectivity and the amount of “gain share” or extra funding from government.
While the negotiations have remained shrouded in secrecy, the talks are likely to have seen debate over agreed proportion of gain share which the local authorities have discretion to spend as they wish, rather than on infrastructure projects.
Concerns were raised that following Michael Gove being fired from his role as the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary by Boris Johnson and that the new minister, Greg Clark, could want to spend time fully digesting the complex deal before signing it off.
Political commentators have highlighted how during his first stint at the Department for Communities Mr Clark negotiated devolution deals and served as minister for decentralisation, but his economic preference was for city-led growth rather than the levelling-up approach focusing on non-metropolitan Britain.
Following news of his appointment and entering his second stint at the department, Clark tweeted that he had a “duty to ensure that the country has a functioning government in the weeks ahead”.
When asked if he was confident about a deal remaining on track following Mr Clark’s appointment, North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les said he was optimistic the transfer of power and funding would be in time to form a Mayoral Combined Authority next year, with Mayoral elections in 2024
He said the negotiations were at a very advanced stage.
Coun Les said: “I do hope this will not derail the negotiations and having worked with Greg Clarke before as secretary of state I have every confidence that he will treat this matter with the urgency it requires.”
“We are at not only the 11th hour, but at the 59th minute of the 11th hour.”
Coun Les said he felt the county council and City of York Council had been listened to during the negotiations, which he described as having been “fruitful”.