Wednesday, 18 March 2015

No Devolution devolution - the case of the Leeds City Region


I have a draft of the "Leeds City Region Agreement on Devolution". Those of you listening carefully to the Budget Speech today will have heard the Chancellor mention said 'deal'.

I am here, armed with a very large bucket of cold water, to explain the detail. But first we should note that, because the four Labour leaders in West Yorkshire don't want direct and democratic accountability there isn't any further devolution of powers.

Here are the headlines.

Joint commissioning of a "forward-looking FE system" and the devolution of the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers "working within the Government's reform agenda for apprenticeships in which funding will be routed directly to employers."

Consultation "about the possibility of joint commissioning for the next phase of the Work Programme beginning in 2017"

The Government "will work with LCR to develop a devolved approach to the delivery of business support from 2017 onwards, subject to the outcome of future spending reviews"

The Government will "explore options" on control of local transport schemes, tell Rail North and Network Rail to "align" with LCR's investment strategy, allow "improved liaison" with the Highways Agency on road investment, and actively engage with LCR on long-term rail planning

Changes to structures for the existing Joint Assets Board with Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) plus a new Joint Asset and Investment Plan

Promises of further talks about devolution with the observation that West Yorkshire Combined Authority will "consult of options for enhanced governance, decision-making and delivery arrangements that will be mutually agreed with Government

So many high level meetings. So much talk. Such a lot of shouting. And, because West Yorkshire's Labour leaders aren't prepared to consider some sort of directly-elected solution - either a mayor or an assembly - we haven't got any devolution. Just a deal for the sake of a deal.


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