North Yorkshire devolution talks 'must involve Rishi Sunak's Treasury as they hold the purse strings'

Talks between North Yorkshire and the Government over its £2.4bn devolution must involve Rishi Sunak's Treasury department "because they hold the purse strings", according to a senior county leader.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 5:45 am

James Farrar, the chief operating officer at the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, told a meeting that a local bid for more powers and funding from Westminster was submitted before Christmas.

Leaders have been told that the first meeting to discuss the bid - which contains measures for North Yorkshire to become the country's first carbon-negative economy - will be before the end of March.

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And Mr Farrar said: "What's important is that the meeting needs to be both with the [Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government] but importantly with the Treasury as well because they hold the purse strings.

"So, we need to keep pushing but we're waiting on a date from Treasury and MHCLG as to when we can have that first meeting and set out the timeline for which we'll negotiate."

It comes as North Yorkshire organisations and residents have their say on a radical shake-up of local government in the county which will see the replacement of the current two-tier system of councils.

Some politicians in North Yorkshire feared that Ministers had gone cool on the devolution agenda as the promised White Paper on the subject has been delayed by several months.

And leaders in Hull and the East Riding have yet to hear back from Ministers after submitting their bid for devolution powers and funding last year.

But North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les said the main hold-up was local authorities failing to agree rather than a lack of enthusiasm from Ministers.

One district council, Hambleton, refused to approve the key document being submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, meaning the other leaders had to submit it without unanimous approval.

Mr Farrar told the meeting that he thought the Government was likely trying to line up North Yorkshire devolution talks with the local government reorganisation.

He said: "We're waiting for the details from central government about how that progresses, but we've submitted it, as a region we've all agreed to our proposals, it's a really ambitious bid. We're waiting on government now."

As well as a 30-year gainshare funding pot worth £750m over 25 years, the submission contains proposals for government funding to be handed over to the county in areas including housing, transport, skills, regeneration and energy.

These include £50m over five years to roll out a programme of electric vehicle charging facilities around the county as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions