Councils in the north and east of Yorkshire are calling on Leeds City Council to abandon its existing devolution plans in favour of a county wide bid for more powers, LGC has learned.
In a letter to Leeds leader Judith Blake, the 11 Yorkshire authorities argue that the “major cities” of Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, York and Hull, along with the county’s “industrious and diverse” towns could make for “a globally competitive region”.
Citing what they describe as Yorkshire’s strong “regional brand” they argue a county wide “partnership” would be “understood, popular and powerful”.
The letter concludes: “Now is a moment for leadership not least from Leeds City Council, the county’s biggest city. We would ask that you reconsider your stated preference for a Leeds City Region devolution deal and work with us for the county of Yorkshire.”
The bid seems unlikely to go far as some leaders in south and West Yorkshire are understood to be opposed to the idea of a county-wide authority.
The Yorkshire-wide plan appears in part driven by the fact the councils in the north and east have not yet formed combined authorities and have limited other potential partners.
Three North Yorkshire districts that have signed the letter - Harrogate BC and Craven and Selby DCs – are members of the Leeds City Region, as is York City Council. East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Hull City Council and North Yorkshire’s other four districts are also signatories.
The move from councils in the east comes after a recent proposal to form a combined authority covering the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership was rejected by North Lincolnshire Council.
North Yorkshire’s is motivated by a desire to avoid the county being split.
North Yorkshire leader Carl Les told LGC he did not want the county to “lose” its three districts and said a Yorkshirewide combined authority would give the county a “home”.
He acknowledged that devolution to such a large area was a “big ask” of government.
A Yorkshire combined authority would cover a population of 5m. The letter said it would make “one of the largest economic powerhouses outside of London” contributing more than £90bn to the national economy every year.
It added: “We understand that the geography is large and that there are a number of councils that would need accommodating in governance arrangements. These are not insurmountable obstacles given the will and the sheer scale of the prize that is on offer here.”
However, a source close to the Leeds City Region deal told LGC that leaders in West Yorkshire were committed to the city region as it was a sensible “economic footprint”.
They questioned what the urban centres that make up the area had in common with the largely rural north of the county.
LGC understands that while the North Yorkshire districts that are part of the Leeds City Region would prefer a Yorkshire wide arrangement they would proceed with the city region deal if that was the only one on the table. Authorities in south Yorkshire, which are negotiating a devolution deal for the Sheffield City Region, are also understood to be opposed.