The five Chambers of Commerce in Yorkshire have welcomed the commissioning of an independent economic review to explore the options for devolution in Yorkshire and Humber.
The five accredited Chambers of Commerce that make up the group are all strong supporters of devolution in principle. The business organisations, collectively, agree that decisions on key issues such as: infrastructure, skills, inward investment and business support can best be taken place outside of Westminster and Whitehall by the local stakeholders and business communities that have a granular understanding of their economies.
The organisations believe that a parity of funding - particularly on key issues such as transport - would go a long way when it comes to ensuring that Yorkshire can maximise opportunities and its contribution to U.K. Plc.
To date, there has been significant debate about what the right spatial level is for devolution with some agencies proposing Yorkshire wide devolution and others preferring sub-regional models aligned with City Regions. None of the region’s Chambers have discounted a Yorkshire and Humber wide deal. As a collective, they are now welcoming the commissioning of an independent analysis of the issues surrounding the debate as this will help to determine the economic facts of the matter.
South Yorkshire, as a part of the Sheffield City Region already has a devolution deal and an Elected Mayor and it must be recognised that areas like the Derbyshire Dales, Worksop and Chesterfield are an integral part of that region’s economy. The Chambers do not believe that this is necessarily a binary debate between regional and sub regional devolution and recognise that a Sheffield City Region deal could be a precursor to a wider deal if that is what the economic evidence suggests. The Sheffield City Region deal also presents the opportunity to demonstrate that having devolved powers can really make a difference to parts of the region’s economy.
Today, the Chambers – based on member sentiment – are collectively announcing that they are open to a Yorkshire wide devolution deal in principle but that they would like to see additional economic evidence for this approach prior to lending their full support for the initiative. The Chambers are also asking for stakeholders to make clear the potential timescales for regional devolution as uncertainty around the issue is causing consternation amongst business leaders in some areas of the county that feel they are now missing out compared to other areas of the country. The business groups have also reasserted the belief that any redistribution of powers should, of course, include responsibilities being devolved from Government but that it may also include powers being ceded from local and sub-regional entities into a more strategic regional entity too. The Chambers are adamant that any devolved governance structures must include a clear mechanism for involving the private sector in decisions about the economy.
Dan Fell, Chief Executive of Doncaster Chamber says:
"Chamber members across the region have expressed their interest in the Yorkshire wide devolution proposition. Those in favour of the idea believe that a truly regional proposition would have heft in Westminster and Whitehall and think that 'Brand Yorkshire' could be a major asset for an economy of 5m in a post-Brexit world. However, business typically reacts well to facts rather than just sentiment; as such, we are today welcoming the move towards an independent economic assessment as this will help to establish the economic case for regional devolution.”
Gerald Jennings, Chair of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber, says:
“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.”
Martin Hathaway, Chief Executive of Mid Yorkshire Chamber, says:
"Chambers across the region support the principles of devolution. We believe that local business leaders and stakeholders have a detailed understanding of what needs to be done to unlock our true economic potential. We would like to see devolved administrations having considerable powers in relation to infrastructure, skills and international trade. If a regional model for devolution is developed, we believe that this would create a need for greater collaboration on issues presently tackled at a Local Authority level. We believe that such a system would see a greater emphasis being placed on schemes and initiatives that will have the greatest economic impact rather than those that are most politically palatable."
Richard Wright, Chief Executive of Sheffield Chamber, says:
“In South Yorkshire we already have a deal so any changes would have to show significant economic and strategic benefits, and recognise the fact that our city region transcends old county political boundaries. Yorkshire is a great brand and recognised around the world and we should do everything we can to maximise the benefits from that but we also need to recognise that Sheffield, Leeds and Hull are great brands too and not necessarily interconnected economies. It is not long since city regions were being quoted as drivers of the economy and we need a compelling argument to make yet another change to our landscape.”
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