Harrogate determined not to be 'marginalised' in Yorkshire devolution

Harrogate is determined not to be ‘marginalised’ in the latest upheaval over devolution in Yorkshire which may impact on its ties with Leeds.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 4:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 4:48 pm
How will Harrogate fare in any new plans for devolution in Yorkshire?

The leader of Harrogate Borough Council said it was vital the town maintained the “closest possible relationship” with Leeds, despite the Government’s rejection of the ‘One Yorkshire’ proposal in favour of, potentially, four new locally-based authorities with elected mayors.

Coun Richard Cooper said: “Harrogate is the second biggest urban area in the new devolved proposal.

“Any attempt to marginalise our borough which includes the historic city of Ripon and the market towns of Knaresborough, Boroughbridge and Masham would be foolish and I don’t anticipate that our partners in North Yorkshire would seek to marginalise us in such a way.

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“We both recognise that many people that work in Leeds live in Harrogate and vice versa. Our relationship is close and benefits both our economies.

"Both the Harrogate Borough Council and Leeds Council are determined to maintain and grow our relationship.”

The Government’s communities secretary Robert Jenrick has appeared to put the final nail in the coffin of the the prospect of a One Yorkshire devolution deal saying the Government had been very clear and wanted devolution “built around functioning economic geographies.”

The effect on the Harrogate district will be felt in two ways:

1. Rather than being linked to Leeds in devolution plans, it now looks set to be subsumed within a new York and North Yorkshire authority with a powerful elected mayor.

2. The Harrogate District will no longer be covered by the economically-beneficial Leeds City Region local enterprise partnership but will be covered solely by the more rural York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP in Northallerton.

The Government has already signalled its support for devolution in South Yorkshire and it appears to be getting ready to agree to a West Yorkshire & Leeds one, too.

Talking to the Harrogate Advertiser, North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les said he was happy with the prospect of devolution for York and North Yorkshire - and the extra funding it might bring.

Coun Les said: “Residents here are losing out at the moment. If you look at how devolution has worked for the Tees Valley, if you have an elected mayor you get listened to more by the Government and you get access to funding streams.”

Looking ahead, he said Harrogate’s interests would still be represented in both the new potential body and the existing YNYER LEP, which covers the largest area of any LEP nationally.

Coun Les said: “I don’t think Harrogate will get left behind. It has done very well out of investment already from the York and North Yorkshire LEP .

“The town and the district is very important to North Yorkshire County Council. The district has a large rural economy and important market towns.

“Harrogate doesn’t just have a relationship with Leeds but with York and North Yorkshire, too. What Harrogate wants to do with Leeds doesn’t stop if there are new boundaries for local government.”

But Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper said the town would not be giving up its close relationship with Leeds.

Coun Cooper said: "The Harrogate district looks both to North Yorkshire and to Leeds and so it is important that we have close relationships with Leeds and West Yorkshire in any new arrangements.

"That is why, in addition to being a member of a York and North Yorkshire devolved area we will also be lobbying Government to allow us to have the closest possible relationship with the Leeds City Region.

"I do not think that a new York and North Yorkshire devolved area would seriously wish to deny the southern part of our district the opportunities that come from its relationship with Leeds."

The YNYER LEP’s deputy chair David Dickson said: “Harrogate has always been an important and valued part of the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding LEP Since it was formed, we have been proud to invest over £17million in Harrogate borough.”

Looking forward to the decade ahead, no one the Harrogate Advertiser spoke to had given up on the idea of ‘One Yorkshire.’

The hope is that the initial forms of devolution on the way will only be a temporary phase one.

Harrogate Borough Council’s leader Coun Cooper said: “Harrogate will be the second biggest urban area in the new devolved proposal.

“We support devolution to York and North Yorkshire as part of a stepping stone to a One Yorkshire devolution deal.

"But we want a date from the Government for when the new arrangements will cease and elections to a Yorkshire-wide devolved area occur.”

As both leader of North Yorkshire County Council and a board member of York, North Yorkshire & East Riding LEP, Coun Carl Les finds himself in a central position as new plans for devolution in Yorkshire start to take shape.

Coun Les has welcomed a potential new devolved York and North Yorks government body under the Government’s new preferred ‘local’ approach to devolution, though he thinks the One Yorkshire devo idea might be resurrected at some point under this Government.