Julian calls for “counterbalance” to West and South Yorkshire combined authorities
March 19, 2014
Yesterday in Parliament, Julian Sturdy MP called for the creation of a third combined authority in Yorkshire to encompass North Yorkshire and the East Riding, with York at its centre, to compete with the newly established West and South Yorkshire rivals.
The MP for York Outer welcomed the creation of combined authorities, a new legal structure whereby several local authorities can take on transport and economic powers from central government. He praised the Government for not “stepping back and passively surrendering to the unyielding rise of London… the Government are rightly taking the necessary and vital steps to tackle the North-South divide head on.”
However, the Yorkshire MP questioned the role of York. He said “I am not yet convinced that York’s destiny lies with the West Yorkshire combined authority… How, then, is York placed to benefit meaningfully from its membership of the West Yorkshire combined authority when it lies at the heart of North Yorkshire, and in more ways than one?Ultimately, it seems to me that we need not only a West Yorkshire combined authority, but a North and East Yorkshire combined authority, to act as an essential counterbalance and to support the rural hinterland that York sits at the centre of—geographically, culturally and economically. In essence, York is the heartbeat of that rural hinterland of North Yorkshire, and removing it could have far-reaching economic consequences.”
Mr Sturdy concluded by saying “York, as a leading centre of innovation and wealth creation in the north, has so much to offer, but such opportunities must not be squandered by jumping on the first bus that comes along, which is what I fear is happening. In my view, that bus is also travelling in the wrong direction. York must not rush headlong into a decision. It must consider all its options, in consultation with local businesses and local residents… and then come to a transparent decision that reflects the views of the majority, not just the few.”
The Local Government Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, responded to Mr Sturdy’s concerns by stating that “It will be important for York to continue to maintain a constructive partnership with North Yorkshire while it pursues its ambition for calibration with the neighbouring West Yorkshire councils, its natural economic partners. I understand that York is committed to that. However, my hon. Friend also raised the interesting possibility of a combined authority of a different construction. No doubt he will be putting forward that proposal soon.”
In a rare display of cross party unity, the Leeds MP and Shadow Cabinet Member John Healey MP praised Mr Sturdy’s intervention. He said “I am really pleased by the active involvement of the hon. Members for York Outer and for Skipton and Ripon in the debate and by the arguments that they have made. That signifies to me that there is a good Conservative case, and good Conservative support, for the innovation and wealth creation potential of areas outside London and the south-east.”
In his Westminster office today ahead of the Budget, Mr Sturdy explained that he would now be meeting with leading regional figures to discuss the possible creation of a North and East Yorkshire combined authority. He explained that “There is clearly scope for North Yorkshire, York and the East Riding to work together more effectively to share the potential rewards of our world class agricultural technology sectors. Such collaboration would also ensure the joined up protection of our greenbelt and share the burden of maintaining our large, predominately rural transport networks for the benefit of local residents across the three local authority areas”.
To watch the debate in full, press play below and skip to 15.52. Or to watch Julian’s speech, skip to 16.22: