Progress continues towards devolution, a process that will bring a host of benefits to York and North Yorkshire, ranging from more affordable housing to improved skills and training, leading to better job opportunities. A £540m devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire was signed in August 2022.
Later this year, an order will be laid before Parliament to decide how powers and millions of pounds in funding that come with devolution will be transferred from Westminster to the region. If approved, the order will pave the way for the formal creation of the York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority.
Devolution is a key policy of the Government and part of Ministers’ levelling up agenda to tackle the regional economic inequalities that exist across the country.
The proposed combined authority will be led by an elected mayor, who will have the statutory powers and responsibilities to deliver the devolution deal, working collectively with the leaders of City of York Council and North Yorkshire Council. Together, they will make decisions on investments in strategic priorities such as for transport, housing, and adult education.
The mayor will also have responsibilities for community safety and will be the directly elected individual with strategic responsibility for the totality of policing, fire and crime for York and North Yorkshire. They will appoint a deputy mayor to carry out many of the powers and duties of the role currently known as police, fire and crime commissioner. Mayoral elections are planned for May 2024.
The joint devolution committee for York and North Yorkshire currently oversees the development work of the combined authority and is made up of members and leaders of both the City of York Council and North Yorkshire Council. At the most recent meeting in July, James Farrar, Chief Operating Officer of the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, was appointed Interim Director of Transition for the proposed new authority.
North Yorkshire Council’s leader, Cllr Carl Les, said:
“Devolution is a long-held ambition for York and North Yorkshire, and will provide a host of benefits for hundreds of thousands of people. “James has a great deal of experience and will be key in delivering the benefits of devolution and ensuring the combined authority runs as efficiently as possible, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with him closely at what is such an important time for York and North Yorkshire.”
Councillor Claire Douglas, Leader of City of York Council said:
“Devolution presents a significant opportunity for York and North Yorkshire and one we are keen to make the most of. “We are focussed on making devolution a success for the people and businesses of York and North Yorkshire. With the potential for increased investment in the region and new opportunities in terms of transport, tackling the climate emergency, providing affordable housing and growing the economy there is much work to do. “I want to welcome James in his new role. We will be working hard with him as well as partners across the region to continue progress and ensure that devolution boosts our economy and supports our communities now and in the future.”
Neighbouring regions of West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Tees Valley have already secured devolution with elected mayors in place, delivering greater investment, economic growth, and community well-being within their regions.
The proposed devolution deal includes a £7m investment to drive green economic growth towards the ambition of York and North Yorkshire becoming the country’s first carbon negative region, which means more carbon dioxide emissions would be removed from the atmosphere than are emitted.
There is also proposed investment of up to £2.65m to deliver affordable low-carbon housing, and £13m for the building of new homes on brownfield land during 2023/24 and 2024/25.
Interim Director of Transition, James Farrar, said:
“I am working closely with colleagues from both councils, the Office of the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner, and the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership. “We are all committed to a smooth transition into a new combined authority, ensuring that we all continue to deliver our services to the public without any interruption. Together, we will ensure it is an organisation that is ready to hit the ground running as soon as a mayor is elected. “We are all working with Government to secure the next step of laying of an order before parliament later this year. We are shifting our timetables in line with anticipated government process. The joint committee will next meet on 23rd October to make key investment decisions relating to new housing on brownfield land and investment in delivering a net zero region. “Devolution presents a huge opportunity for York and North Yorkshire and we’re working as hard as we can to ensure that the new combined authority is up and ready to deliver under the leadership of a mayor.”
In July the joint devolution committee also approved a £1m implementation budget and interim branding for the proposed combined authority.