The Harrogate District will have to decide where to plant its flag if plans for an elected mayor and devolution in Yorkshire go ahead.
Local authorities throughout Yorkshire, including Harrogate Borough Council, have entered discussions with other local authorities on what this means from a local perspective and what actions could be taken at district, county and regional levels.
Most agree that further devolution would be beneficial, however there are a number of competing visions around how it might work and over what area.
- The first option is that Harrogate Borough Council remain with North Yorkshire, York and possibly East Riding and Hull too, while the West Yorkshire Combined Authority opts for devolution and a mayor.
- The second option is that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority expands to cover the current Leeds City Region taking on Craven, Harrogate, Selby and York. This seems to be the favourite of a lot of the West Yorkshire Authorities; however North Yorkshire County Council are likely to oppose this.
- The third option is the creation of a Greater Yorkshire. This would take in West and North Yorkshire plus probably East Riding and Hull and possibly South Yorkshire. This model seems to have the backing of NYCC, the North Yorkshire Districts, Hull and Leeds. However there is some resistance from some of the West Yorkshire Authorities as they believe it will dilute any deals done with government.
Councils will also have to decide together on the powers they would want to wrestle from Westminster – this could include taking control of transport, homes and communities agency funding, Defra funding, and the Environment Agency, along with retaining new business rates.
The Government is expecting authorities to take a decision on the basic options for devolution by early autumn 2015.
Harrogate Borough Council’s Leader Richard Cooper believes the situation at the moment is still fluid.
Councillor Cooper said:
Devolution is about powers coming down from Westminster to be taken nearer to those affected most by those decisions. This is a good thing.
The discussion we need to have is about the extent of those powers and the area over which they are exercised. My firm view is that a devolution deal with an elected mayor for Yorkshire provides the scale required to enable Yorkshire to compete globally.