North Yorkshire’s local enterprise partnership set to merge with Leeds counterpart

Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council.

A merger between two bodies charged with leading economic growth and job creation could be the key to getting the One Yorkshire devolution deal approved by Government, it has been claimed.

North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les said the proposal submitted to government to merge York and North Yorkshire’s local enterprise partnership (LEP) with its Leeds City Region counterpart represented “immense opportunities” for both areas, but could also help win over ministers who are blocking the One Yorkshire plan.

Cllr Les said while a Government decision over the merger was awaited, there was an element of urgency about moves to create the new LEP body, so it could hit the ground running.

Concerns have been mounting that Yorkshire is being left behind areas which already have influential metro mayors in place, such as Ben Houchen in the Tees Valley and Andy Burham in Greater Manchester.

Cllr Les, who is a board member of the York and North Yorkshire LEP, told the county council’s transport, economy and environment scrutiny committee: “My own view if this is a takeover of one bigger organisation to the other it will be a disaster.

“This must be seen as something new because both sides have some very good working practices.

“There are some immense opportunities in a region of this size. There’s a lot of rural areas in West Yorkshire, where there is not the same degree of skills and knowledge that we have on rural matters and we could learn from them about city economies and the like.”

Councillor Robert Heseltine, who represents Skipton, told the meeting he had reservations about the merger.

He said: “It fills me with dread that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and its civil servants will control what goes on in North Yorkshire.”

Cllr Les said: “I know one or two people are saying we are not going to get as much money out of the local enterprise partnership now, that’s not the point.

“This is about making the private and public sectors work much better together.

“I do think there are ministers in the Government who do think that Yorkshire leaders can’t speak with one voice. I think this will be a good example of showing that we actually can work together. It would be a stepping stone towards our ambition of the One Yorkshire reality.”

James Farrar, chief officer of the York and North Yorkshire LEP told the meeting the cities had a “greater footprint” in Government, so the merger would give North Yorkshire more influence.

He said: “There is a concern that you will have a large urban metropolis at the centre of attention and what is a large project for us is small for them, so how we ensure the priorities, investment levels and operating models in York and North Yorkshire are protected?

“The model that Leeds run in West Yorkshire is designed for an urban centre, where we run a very different model based on the spread out nature of our partners in a very rural area. There are risks, but there are clear benefits of coming together. We would be the largest LEP in the country geographically and economically and it gives us much more weight from that perspective.”