A landmark shift in funding and power from London to Yorkshire, hailed as the most significant government overhaul since the 40s, is to be announced by Deputy PM Nick Clegg later today. This will see the Leeds City Region, a vast economic area that spans York and Harrogate right through West Yorkshire to Bradford and Barnsley, handed a “ground-breaking deal” of billions of pounds of funding and independent control of local authority decisions in return for promises to reinvigorate the economy and slash youth unemployment.
This afternoon Nick Clegg is to visit Leeds and Sheffield to unveil the plans for a ‘city deal’ that has the potential to create 20,000 new jobs in the medium term, drastically modernise Yorkshire’s infrastructure and offer a staggering 15,000 apprenticeships in the next four years. The deal will also allow local authorities to take the helm over their own spending and decision-making instead of having to lobby to and then wait several months for response from central government as is currently the case.
This devolution of control from Whitehall toYorkshire comes as part of a wider nation-wide scheme that sees five other cities including Newcastle, Birmingham and Liverpool granted a similar ‘city deal’. Yet all of these privileges come as part of a bargain these cities have to subscribe to in which they will help the coalition to deliver their goals of “re-balancing” the government and economy away from London and the South-East as well as getting the economy and job-market back on its feet.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Nick Clegg said of the Northern ‘city deals’: “Our cities used to be great powerhouses of growth and innovation, but they have been suffocated for too long by over-centralisation in London and by only being able to do anything with the permission of some Whitehall bureaucrat. Now we are turning that relationship on its head…This is a really big first step, but I regard it as part of a bigger agenda away from centralisation.”
For the Leeds City Region, their main promise in this pact will be to eliminate Neets (people not in education, employment or training) through the provision of a 14-24 apprenticeship academy in Leeds, an ‘apprenticeship’ hub that would encourage 7,500 new employers to take on apprentices and initiate increased overseas trade which could create 7,400 jobs by 2018. A £1bn investment in public transport and the way Yorkshire travels, an issue hotly debated particularly here in York, hopes to create a more tight-knit Northern community that can move around efficiently, cheaply and frequently.