Harrogate borough councillors last night unanimously voted in favour of proceeding with associate membership of the Leeds City Region Combined Authority to benefit from its proposed devolution deal.
Associate membership gives the district a ‘seat at the table’ if the Leeds City Region gets more powers and cash from the government in a devolution deal.
This decision leaves open the opportunity for the Harrogate district to become a full member of a combined authority covering any one of the Leeds City Region; York, North Yorkshire and East Riding (YNYER) or a Wider Yorkshire combined authority deal.
Associate membership of a combined authority will provide Harrogate with a seat at the table for discussions concerning key projects which will impact on the economic development of the Harrogate district. Crucially though, unlike full membership, associate membership, does not guarantee a vote on all combined authority decisions.
When more information becomes available, there will be a further report regarding YNYER (possibly including Hull) and Wider Yorkshire combined authority proposals and devolution deals affecting those areas.
Councillor Richard Cooper, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said:
I have always favoured a Wider Yorkshire deal as Yorkshire is a globally recognised brand with a diverse economy. However, those responsible for that deal and the York, North Yorkshire, East Riding and potentially Hull deal, have not progressed them to a point where that choice is before us. The Leeds City Region deal has been presented to Government and therefore we have to take a position on it.
While the council unanimously agreed to explore the option of being part of a Leeds City Region Combined Authority and its devolution deal this in no way means that we have discounted other deals. Currently there are no other deals on the table which are sufficiently progressed for us to decide upon. Once they are, we will examine these in exactly the same way.
This decision has not changed our role within North Yorkshire and we are proud to be part of the North Yorkshire family of local authorities. In fact, every Harrogate borough councillor who is also a North Yorkshire county councillor supported the vote last night.
That said we cannot ignore the fact that a lot of cash and power could be coming to one of our neighbours and that could have an impact on local jobs and our economy. We could be missing out and that is why we decided to explore closer links.
This deal, and any other deal, still has to be ratified by Government.
That may not happen but we need to be prepared for that eventuality.