York will be “much more prominent” on the regional and national stage as part of the multi-million pound devolution deal signed on Monday, the Leveling Up Secretary said.
The city will not be a junior partner once it becomes part of a joint mayoral combined authority with the rest of North Yorkshire, according to Greg Clark, the government minister in charge of the deal.
He and Cllr Keith Asdpen, leader of City of York Council and Cllr Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, officially signed the agreement, worth £750m to the region, in the grand hall of the National Railway Museum on Monday.
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The long-awaited ‘city region and rural powerhouse’ deal, which is subject to approval by both councils, hands over key decision-making powers to the region, delivering funding for transport, improving education and job opportunities over a 30-year period.
York is dwarfed by North Yorkshire geographically and the deal will see a new directly elected mayor come to power in May 2024, who would most likely be a Conservative.
Mr Clark said: “I don’t think York will be a junior partner by a long way.
“I think the influence of York regionally and nationally will be that much greater.”
The deal unlocks an investment in York Central of up to £50m, as well as £13m for the building of new homes on brownfield land and £7m to drive green economic growth.
Cllr Aspden, who pointed out that the deal was worth more than West Yorkshire’s when it was struck, said his priorities from the deal included cash for York Central, housing stock retrofitting and transport investment.
“I think it’s a good deal that ultimately brings money and new powers to residents and businesses in York and North Yorkshire,” he said.
“But it’s absolutely right that we take the opportunity over summer – now that the details of the deal have been published – so that residents and businesses can look really closely and have a conversation with us about whether it is the right deal for York.”
The York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority will be made up of the elected mayor as well as lead member and a further member from both York and North Yorkshire.
Cllr Aspden said: “It is constituted in a way where it has to be a partnership between the councillors, the council leaders and the mayor.
“If you get those relationships off on the wrong footing, you’re not going to achieve anything for your areas.
“Each council has a veto over certain aspects of the deal.”
Cllr Aspden, a Liberal Democrat who has reservations about a system that places lots of power in one individual, added: “As a council leader, I’ve got to be pragmatic and if I want to achieve major regeneration housing projects and new investment in transport, this is the way that the government is devolving money and powers at the moment.
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“So personally, I’m happy that it is worth the price in terms of what it will achieve for York in the long term, even if I don’t like every last detail of the administrative arrangements.”
York Central MP Rachael Maskell said: “We need to make sure that we get a good mayor in place who is independent minded and can oversee the politics in order to deliver an outcome for York and North Yorkshire.”
Cllr Les said the deal was “a start – and a long time coming.”
He added: “North Yorkshire folk are canny folk and if you’ve been told you have half a billion pounds, but we’ve got to have a mayor – well, I would say I’ll go for the mayor.”
He said the two councils already worked together and could see no reason why this wouldn’t continue.
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