East Riding council leader Richard Burton wants devolution to get to the 'front of the queue' on investment

Political leaders in the East Riding and Hull hope to start negotiations with the Government over a proposed devolution deal in early 2021 but have yet to hear back from Ministers three months after they submitted their plan outlining how powers could be handed over from Westminster.

Saturday, 26th December 2020, 5:45 am

A bid has been handed into government asking for a host of new powers and up to £1.6bn in extra funding as part of an agreement could see a new elected metro mayor and a mayoral authority dedicated to economic growth in place by 2022.

Council leaders in Hull and the East Riding hope to join West Yorkshire and the Sheffield City Region in getting a devolution deal which could help tackle some of the entrenched problems affecting the area.

Richard Burton, the Conservative leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said local leaders had performed "our part of the bargain" but were still waiting to hear back from Ministers after submitting the plans in early December.

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It comes as the Government's commitment to handing powers and resources to local leaders is increasingly called into question. Its devolution White Paper setting out its vision in this area has been delayed several times and last month Bolris Johnson said devolution had been a "disaster" in Scotland.

Mr Burton, who took over the leadership of the Tory-run council last year, said he wanted to do anything that could help bring investment to the area and the current favoured model was mayoral combined authorities.

He told The Yorkshire Post: "You do seem to have an advantage if you have a mayoral combined authority structure, so I want to make sure that whatever the government invite is, we want to be playing in that game we want to be playing hard and we want to ensure that we are in a good place to be able to deliver the very best.

East Riding of Yorkshire council leader Richard Burton

"Trouble is we are between, we're waiting to hear from government and it does seem as though the White Paper on devolution has been put back but the Government has got a lot on its plate at the moment with COVID and everything else.

"And to be fair it has been ambitious because not only that you've got the planning White Paper as well in the mix, which really could make a big impact on local authority areas and how we deliver housing.

"So there's a lot going on but I just want to make sure that we're working hard to ensure that we're at the front of the queue for getting investment in infrastructure and skills for our residents."

Local leaders in the East Riding and Labour-run Hull had originally hoped to join forces with councils in North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire as part of a pan-Humber agreement. But the two south bank authorities decided to align with the rest of Lincolnshire instead.

The Hull and East Riding document says that social cohesion is "relatively strong" across the population of 600,000, which is evenly split between the city of Hull and the surrounding area and more than 300 market and coastal towns, villages and hamlets.

But the average annual salary is only 87 per cent of the national figure and the relative lack of higher paid jobs limits the area's ability to retain and attract high skilled workers.

It is hoped that with the help of the extra funding currently under the control of government new programmes can be set up which will improve access to jobs for young people and stop poverty from being passed down the generations.

Leaders want to work with the Department of Work and Pensions to set up a Young People’s Work Guarantee Programme for Hull worth £15m a year.

This would include setting up an 'active labour market model' in Hull where state programmes intervene in the labour market to help the unemployed find work, as well as providing start-up and micro-finance to young entrepreneurs and wrap-around support for vulnerable families and children.

A government spokesman said: “Levelling up all areas of England and empowering our regions by devolving money, resources and control away from Westminster remains a priority.

“Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire Councils have submitted a mayoral devolution proposal which is being carefully considered.

”We intend to bring forward the Devolution and Local Recovery White Paper in due course.”