How North Yorkshire's £2.4bn devolution bid could make it country's first carbon-negative area

North Yorkshire leaders are asking the Government to commit to a £2.4bn funding package as part of a devolution deal for the county which would help it to become England's first carbon negative economy.

Friday, 17th July 2020, 4:20 pm
Updated Friday, 17th July 2020, 4:24 pm
Ribblesdale in North Yorkshire. Pic by James Hardisty

A 140-page document submitted to Ministers by political leaders in North Yorkshire sets out their demands in return for the election of a metro mayor and the likely replacement of its district councils with a single unitary authority.

As well as a 30-year gainshare funding pot worth £750m over 25 years, the submission contains proposals for government funding to be handed over to the county in areas including housing, transport, skills, regeneration and energy.

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These include £50m over five years to roll out a programme of electric vehicle charging facilities around the county as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions.

Leaders have also proposed that the powers of the North Yorkshire police fire and crime commissioner, to scrutinise and set budgets for the police and fire and rescue services, are taken over by the elected mayor.

The document, which has been agreed by all nine council leaders, says the vision is for "York and North Yorkshire to become England’s first carbon negative economy, where people with the skills and aspiration to reach their full potential, earn higher wages and live healthy lives in thriving communities".

It adds: "With two National Parks, the Yorkshire Coast and City of York, our world renowned historic and cultural assets shape our urban spaces, whilst the scenic beauty of our vast rural landscape and northern coastline define York and North Yorkshire as one of world’s most recognised regions.

"This is a place where the city, land and seascapes have shaped the people who live, work, research and create here."

But the document says the county retains some structural economic challenges "which must be addressed through devolution if we are to truly level up the UK economy".

It says: "Whilst job growth has broadly matched the rest of the UK, much of this growth has been in lower productivity sectors, particularly the visitor economy. These are also sectors which have been severely hit by the COVID-19 lockdown.

"This growth in low productivity sectors is important both because productivity is crucial to the long term growth rate of an economy, and because it feeds through into wages and standards of living.

"UK productivity has been relatively static since the economic crisis of 2008, and is below key international competitors.

"Levels in the North are lower still, including in our region, where productivity has moved from being the same as UK average in 2003 to significantly below UK levels in 2017."

Among the 'asks' in the document, which would need to be agreed by government, are £250m over five years for transport and £520m to improve fibre connectivity across the region.

It says a £750m gainshare agreement would provide any elected mayor with £25m a year over 30 years "to invest on an integrated basis and drive economic growth".

In West Yorkshire and the Sheffield City Region the annual gainshare funding agreed with government as part of their devolution deals comes to £38m ands £30m respectively.

Leaders also want a devolved allocation from the Government's Local Growth Fund, created to boost local economies, and planned Shared Prosperity Fund which replaces European funding.

Minister Simon Clarke has told leaders that to get the devolved powers an elected metro mayor must be elected and a unitary authority created, replacing the current two-tier system of a county councils and district councils.

They have until September to submit their proposals before a public consultation is held and it is expected more than one will be put forward.