Council leader focusing on jobs and health while pledging not to support any devolution ‘merger’ with Hull
East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s leader has said his focus is on jobs, finances, health and “growing” inequalities while pledging not to support any devolution deal leading to a “merger” with Hull.
East Riding Council Leader Jonathan Owen said the recently successful Humber Freeport bid and the new Hull and East Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) were among opportunities to be taken.
But he added while talks on devolution were progressing with the government and Hull City Council, he would walk away from any deal which changed East Riding’s the boundaries.
Cllr Owen also said growing hospital waiting lists would be a big challenge for the area in response to a question from Liberal Democrat opposition deputy leader Cllr Denis Healy.
It comes as councillors heard separately a challenge to a Planning Inspectorate decision which paved the way for hundreds of new homes could be taken up by the high court.
Planning portfolio holder Cllr Gary McMaster said reasonable grounds for an appeal had been found against the ruling to let two developments in Pocklington and Swanland totalling 530 homes commence.
Councillors met last week in Bridlington Spa with social distancing for the first all in person full council meeting, other than its AGM, since the coronavirus pandemic began.
The meeting started with tributes to Cllr Paul Lisseter who died earlier this month.
Fellow East Wolds and Coastal ward member Cllr Jane Evison said he was “loyal and dependable” while Cllr Owen said he was “dedicated to service”.
Councillors heard updates from Cllr McMaster who said the East Riding was now the 12th busiest planning authority nationally following a 30% rise in applications this year.
The portfolio holder added the council felt the government’s proposed overhaul of the planning system could “take away responsibility” from local authorities and concerns had been passed on to ministers.
Councillors also heard from Economy Portfolio Holder Cllr Evison who said tourist bookings for this summer looked “extremely positive” but the return of visitors would bring traffic and other “challenges”.
The portfolio holder added May had seen the fastest fall in those claiming benefits in 13 months, down by 650, but hospitality businesses had reported staff recruitment problems since reopening.
Cllr Evison also welcomed the recent success of the Goole Town Deal bid and had been one of the few to get the full amount it asked for.
A total of £25m in funding is set for the town, to be spent on 10 projects chosen by the Goole Town Deal Board in consultation with residents.
She added several businesses were already interested in the Humber Freeport after Cllr Owen said it should attract new businesses rather than encouraging existing ones to relocate for lower taxes.
Cllr Owen said he wanted to build on a culture of “dedication and excellence” in the council as the East Riding emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
He added the East Riding was not immune to rising inequality seen nationally and that creating jobs, providing housing and proper health provision was needed to tackle it.
The leader said: “One of the most significant challenges facing us in the next couple of years is getting everyone on hospital waiting lists through the system.
“As time moves on that backlog of people will grow and there will also be people who have developed mental and other health problems as a result of being out of work.
“We’re still living in a world of coronavirus, our tourism and leisure businesses are reopening but we must not be complacent.
“We had a recent visit from ministers who said we were well ahead of other areas on our Freeport plans.
“I’ve written to government minister Luke Hall on behalf of myself and Hull City Council leader Daren Hale on devolution.
“There will be a number of milestones along the way where we can chose to go no further if we don’t see any benefits.
“I will not endorse any discussions that stray into boundary issues or authority mergers.”
Councillors also backed motions on tree planting ahead of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and another calling an ongoing consultation on the East Riding Local Plan to be publicised further.
Cllr Denis Healy, who proposed the latter motion, said “time is of the essence” for residents to get involved in the consultation which ends on Friday, August 6.
The Local Plan currently being drafted will allocate parts of the East Riding for development up to 2039.