Councillors claim North Yorkshire devolution will benefit residents everywhere

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Leaders of two local authorities which look set to form a mayoral combined authority have dismissed claims it will benefit residents and traders in one area over another, saying it would provide boosts that councils working on their own could not deliver.

A meeting of North Yorkshire and City of York Council’s Joint Devolution Committee heard while York was being lined up to receive the lion’s share of funding given by government to develop housing on brownfield sites, North Yorkshire could get more than its proportionate share of funding for net zero initiatives.

Meeting at County Hall in Northallerton, the committee, which resembles the proposed mayoral combined authority with two elected members from both councils, heard further concerns over accountability and transparency.

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Local government campaigner Anne Seex questioned whether it was seeking to “operate outside of public scrutiny”.

North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl LesNorth Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les
North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les

After she questioned the absence of background papers about how £12.7m of devolved capital funding would be spent on brownfield housing, the county council’s top legal officer replied he did not believe the committee was acting outside of the law.

The meeting heard to ensure accountability any of the committee’s decisions could be called in by the councils scrutiny committee.

However, councillors were told of £24.3m of brownfield housing schemes being considered, £17.9m were in York and just £6.4m in North Yorkshire, despite the county’s population being about three times greater.

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Nevertheless, the meeting heard as part of the devolution deal the Government was also set to provide investment to drive green economic growth towards to create a carbon negative region, and while £38m of schemes were being drawn up for the county, in York the figure stood at £10.4m.

York councillor Paula Widdowson said she was delighted to see the amount of investment and “proper grow-up partnership working”.

She said shared expertise was enabling the councils to deliver more than they would do by themselves.

North Yorkshire’s deputy leader Councillor Gareth Dadd said while York was set to receive proportionately more than North Yorkshire over the brownfield site funding, North Yorkshire would benefit more from funding for net zero projects.

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He said: “Let’s not forget if York does well, North Yorkshire does well.

"Economic movement and economic vitality doesn’t know local government boundaries.”

Countering concerns expressed by opposition politicians over a rise in bureaucracy, the meeting also saw the committee push forward plans for the combined authority to initially have a “light” number of staff and try to “draw on existing resource and capabilities” from the councils.

Councillors were told it was hoped to restrict the combined authority’s funding to £1.25m a year to fulfil its statutory responsibilities and its corporate functions.

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County council leader Councillor Carl Les said North Yorkshire’s authority had seen much conjecture about the merits and drawbacks of a combined authority.

He said: “One of the things the nay-sayers were saying was wrong with it was that we would grow a combined authority with a staff of thousands and they’d all be working in York and working just for York’s benefit.

"I’m very happy that we are starting to dispel some of those misconceptions straight away. It will be in the true spirit of keeping it light.”

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