Hull considers move away from combined Humber authority in favour of Yorkshire agreement

Published: Friday 12th June 2015 by KCFM

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A row has broken out over whether East Yorkshire would be better teaming up with Yorkshire’s cities or go with Northern Lincolnshire to form a combined authority.

Yesterday, Hull City Council leader Steve Brady said his preference would be for councils to combine across Yorkshire. He met with his counterpart in Leeds earlier this week, and told KCFM that the meeting had been “hugely successful”:

“”This will be elected leaders of every council hopefully in Yorkshire, sitting around the table, no more cost to the taxpayer, making decisions and being able to make decisions on those devolution powers.

“It makes real sense for one of the most well known brands in the country, if not internationally- the Yorkshire brand. Certainly we believe that is the way to go now.”

Councillor Brady had previously pursued the possibility of forming a combined authority for the Humber, but said the lack of response from councils on the south bank was frustrating:

“I have for the last couple of years been fighting for a similar combined authority  across the Humber, and I have had no response whatsoever from the south bank authorities.

“In fact the opposite is true- they did not want a combined authority for the Humber, and I’m not spending the next two years on the same approach. It’s like banging your head against a brick wall and I’m not prepared to do that.

“However, the importance of the ports has been shown by the recent investment in Hull. We believe a development co-operation led by business across the Humber, which would deal with all things pertaining to the ports and logistics, would be the answer.

“Grabbing the opportunity of devolvement of powers would allow us as a region- as well as businesses- to be able to make decisions very quickly about investments we’d like to make.”

Following Councillor Brady’s comments, the chief executive of the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce has declared himself in favour of an arrangement between the north and south bank. Dr Ian Kelly told KCFM this is option is more widely supported by the local businesses community:

“A lot of businesses are telling me that the Humber is our economic unit. It’s the fourth largest trading estuary in Europe- the largest in the UK. We also have a £6bn petrochemicals industry and £100bn in offshore renewable energy.

“From a business perspective, and let’s remember that it’s businesses that create jobs and promotes wealth as much as- if not more than- some local politicians, their views do need to be taken on board if we are trying to find solutions that generate prosperity, wealth and growth in the economy.

“Many local businesses feel that’s driven by the Humber, and not best led by Leeds.”

Dr Kelly added and that our area has missed out under previous Yorkshire-wide agreements:

“In the last year of Yorkshire Forward, which had a £350m turnover, the Humber got £30m. By head of population, we should have had £70m. We got half of that, and that was the best we ever had in the 13 years of Yorkshire Forward. We never got our share of the cash.

“If  Whitehall and the Westminster pass on our share directly to the Humber, we’ll be twice as well off as we ever were as part of a Yorkshire format.”

He also said the sheer size of a Yorkshire-wide authority would create its own problems:

“Yorkshire is the size of Scotland, and Scotland tried to go for independence. Therefore the agenda when Lord Heseltine came here and talked to us about this was about city and city region mayors.

“The idea of an elected mayor based in Leeds who is a long way from here, and who can be vetoed by a cabinet of all the 22 local authority leaders in Yorkshire, is a relatively weak figurehead for a structure that gives them maximum freedom.

“What we’re looking for is perhaps a well recognised local politician with local connection, someone with profile who can build and add profile to the four local authorities. They would continue to operate as independent units under this model so that we don’t have a new Humberside, which nobody wants.

“We have to be careful not to offer up solutions  to Government that lead us into a cul-de-sac.”

However, Councillor Brady remains confident that linking up with the county’s other cities is the best way forward for Hull:

“The Chamber of Commerce can make their comments, but I believe this is the right way to go.

“We’re backed up, I’m sure, by the East Riding, North Yorkshire and York, and this is gathering real momentum.”

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Published: Friday 12th June 2015 by KCFM

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