Widespread support from leading organisations and the public has been gathered as the Government is set to be asked to forge ahead with plans to bring a host of benefits including new jobs, more affordable housing and measures to tackle climate change to York and North Yorkshire.
Hundreds of residents, businesses, and charity and voluntary organisations took part in the biggest public consultation ever undertaken by councils in York and North Yorkshire to collect the public’s views on a proposed devolution deal.
A total of 1,943 people completed the survey in full for the devolution element of the public consultations, expressing views on a range of topics including housing, transport, skills and employment and climate change. The response rate is understood to have compared favourable to other devolution engagement campaigns with the public elsewhere in the country.
The eight-week consultation was launched on October 21 and ran until December 16 last year, and views were gathered through face-to-face engagement events, an online survey and via letters and emails. A concerted effort was made to engage with as many sections of society, including the younger generation and communities across North Yorkshire, and documents were available in nine different languages including Arabic, Kurdish, Romanian, Polish Ukrainian and Bengali.
Members of North Yorkshire County Council’s and City of York Council executives will meet over the next two weeks to discuss a report outlining the consultation results. If they approve the report, it will be discussed at full council meetings later this month before a decision is made to send the results to the Government.
City of York Council Leader, Councillor Keith Aspden, commented:
“Devolution presents a significant and historic opportunity for York and the North Yorkshire region to secure new powers and investment which have the potential to boost our local economy and support our communities now and in the long term.
“This next decision is an important step in unlocking devolution and the benefits that can come with it. Given the significance of this decision, it’s been great to see so many get involved in the consultation – I’d like to thank all that took the time to review the plans and make their comments.”
The combined authority is set to be overseen by an influential metro mayor elected under the proposed devolution deal, co-ordinating key strategic projects ranging from major transport improvements and boosting skills and education to providing more affordable housing.
Most of the consultation respondents (54%) supported or strongly supported the proposed governance arrangements in the scheme. However, concerns were expressed by some members of the public about ensuring the mayoral combined authority remains democratically accountable to the electorate especially as it will serve such a vast area across England’s largest county. Other respondents voiced reservations that a top tier of local government was being introduced with the combined authority over-arching both the new North Yorkshire Council and the existing City of York Council.
But Cllr Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said:
“The mayor is due to be elected by residents of York and North Yorkshire so they would be directly accountable to the electorate at the ballot box. Beyond that, their activities will be scrutinised by an overview and scrutiny committee.
“As devolution has progressed in other parts of Yorkshire - there are deals already in place in West and South Yorkshire - we do not want York and North Yorkshire to be left behind. The mayoral combined authority will work closely with both the new North Yorkshire Council and City of York Council to listen and ensure the views and priorities of communities and businesses across the whole area are represented.
“To have so many people taking part in the public engagement is very welcome, as it shows the interest that is there on the proposed devolution deal. The responses will be carefully considered before a decision is taken to submit the results of the engagement to the Government.”
The full results of the public engagement on the proposed devolution deal is available here.