The leader of North Yorkshire County Council has vowed to not let it be treated as the poor relation by metropolitan areas, should the government approve a proposed £3.75bn Yorkshire devolution deal.
Carl Les said despite facing the prospect of ongoing “horse trading” with cities such as Hull, Bradford and Leeds for a fair share of funds, the blueprint submitted to the government would bring significant benefits to Yorkshire’s largest county.
Documents submitted to Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid state the deal would not only stimulate regeneration and growth across urban areas, but in rural and coastal areas as well.
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The documents add the deal would deliver “raised living standards for everyone”, lead to the creation of 200,000 jobs and £12bn of economic growth and boost productivity.
Only Sheffield and Rotherham out of Yorkshire’s 20 councils have not backed the One Yorkshire bid, which aims to ensure the region can shape its economic future post-Brexit and transfer decision-making from Whitehall “to the lowest practical level, whether district or neighbourhood level, sub regional or regional”.
Councillor Les said while he agreed places with the highest populations should receive the most funding, it had been made clear to city authorities that North Yorkshire would not tolerate being sidelined.
Highlighting this concern, enshrined in the deal document is the principle that “everyone in Yorkshire is able to benefit from devolution”.
Councillor Les said: “We have set out with the principle that we all want to help each other. There will come a time when we start challenging each other – North Yorkshire could get swamped by the big metropolitans. We will be fine as long as the cities don’t forget it costs more to deliver services in rural North Yorkshire.
“This devolution deal benefits North Yorkshire in the priniciple that we have a better understanding of our needs than civil servants in Whitehall, and also in that devolution comes with a chunk of extra money.
“The challenge will be how to fairly distribute that extra funding. It will be horse trading at the end of the day.”
If approved, the deal would also see a Yorkshire Mayor elected by 2020.
Councillor Les admitted another challenge Conservative-dominated North Yorkshire faced was the strength of Labour support elsewhere in the region, illustrated by 36 of the 54 Yorkshire constituencies being held by Labour.
He said while “charisma could win the Mayoral election” for his party, the alliance with Labour-led authorities was too good an economic opportunity for North Yorkshire to miss out on. Approval of the deal would see the creation a combined authority of 5.3 million people, which has been described as “the most significant entity outside of London”.
Cllr Les said: “We have a huge brand in Yorkshire. It is a brand marketing people would die for as it comes on a set of values such as straight-speaking, honesty and integrity. It is not just about the brand it is about the affinity to the brand.”
Richmondshire has already backed the deal along with other Yorkshire councils such as Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Doncaster, East Riding, Hambleton, Harrogate, Hull, Kirklees, Leeds, North Yorkshire, Scarborough, Selby, Ryedale, and Wakefield, and York.