Results from the West & North Yorkshire and Mid Yorkshire Chambers of Commerce’s latest survey show the majority of business owners are in favour of devolution. The survey of businesses said that 76% of them either agree or strongly agree that powers, responsibilities and resources should be devolved from Whitehall. Powers for greater control over infrastructure, business support, education & skills all figured prominently. Also highlighted by businesses was the need for powers over planning & spatial strategy, and that housing policy should also be controlled at a regional level rather from Whitehall. The recently proposed central Government methodology for housing which would see targets lowered across the bulk of Yorkshire might have been reframed by a devolved administration to take greater account of economic growth ambitions for example.
Tellingly, 70% of businesses agreed that, subject to strong governance, transparency and commitment to economic success, they would support powers for a devolved administration to raise its own finance. As a Chamber network we would want to work with any future devolved administration in setting out how funds might be raised and what priorities this was seeking to address.
The really big question, which has vexed proceedings up to this point and stymied progress, is over which geography any devolution settlement might cover. 48% of businesses said they would like to see a devolution settlement which took in the largest possible Yorkshire geography with 26% favouring a county settlement and 18% favouring a settlement focused on city regions in West and North Yorkshire.
Speaking on the results, Chair of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Gerald Jennings said: “Our members have said very clearly that they support the Yorkshire brand and so we would urge politicians to move forward at pace. In acknowledging a deal is already in place for Sheffield, we would encourage Government to proceed as planned with that deal but look to work with local authorities and the business community to bring a deal forward to ensure the rest of the region is not punished for its lack of progress to date. Last week’s budget and the announcement of the £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund which clearly favours those geographies with devolved powers, should be a wakeup call to our regional politicians to tell them that the train is already leaving the station and Yorkshire does not yet have a seat on it. This Chamber remains strongly supportive of devolution and stands ready to support a future administration in its objectives to grow our economy, foster innovation and improve productivity. We strongly believe that if we are given the tools we can make the difference we all want to see in Yorkshire. Brexit negotiations are rightly soaking up much political and civil service thinking and I believe that by bringing the powers, funding and decision making to our region we can allow Whitehall to focus on getting the best possible deal with the EU. In the meantime we can channel the energy and creativity which is in abundance across Yorkshire through devolved powers to deliver an economy that works for all.”
Managing Director of Mid-Yorkshire Chamber, Martin Hathaway said: “It is important that Yorkshire makes the most of the opportunities created by devolution and politicians listen to our members. Following the Transforming Cities Fund announcement in the recent Budget, we must act quickly and not get left behind.”
For more information please contact Mark Goldstone at the Chamber.
About the results
- The results are based on feedback from 847 companies across West & North Yorkshire
- 59% of respondents felt very or slightly informed, 34% felt they were not very well informed and 7% did not know anything about devolution
- 43% agreed strongly with devolution, 33% agreed, 7% disagreed and 5% strongly disagreed with the principal of devolution
- Regional control over road infrastructure funding (68%) and business support (65%) were the policies most wanted by business