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Devolution to York and North Yorkshire

How will the devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire work?

Ribbleshead viaduct in North Yorkshire
Ribbleshead Viaduct in North Yorkshire. The York and North Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority will bring together the local authorities of City of York Council and North Yorkshire Council.

On 1 August 2022 (Yorkshire Day), ministers and local leaders signed a devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire. Powers will be devolved to a new mayoral combined authority, headed by a mayor elected in May 2024.

What is the history of devolution to York and North Yorkshire?

Under the last Labour government, proposals to create a regional assembly for the larger Yorkshire and the Humber region were abandoned after a referendum in the neighbouring North East region heavily rejected a similar proposed assembly. 34 Mulholland H, ‘North-east voters reject regional assembly’ The Guardian, 5 November 2004, retrieved 12 October 2023, www.theguardian.com/society/2004/nov/05/regionalgovernment.politics.  

A proposed Leeds City Region devolution deal that would have covered York and parts of North Yorkshire was rejected by government in 2016, in the face of opposition from some local MPs and local leaders. 35 Pidd H, ‘Sheffield mayoral vote delay prompts calls for Yorkshire-wide deal’ The Guardian, 12 January 2017, retrieved 9 November 2023, www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/12/sheffield-mayoral-vote-delay-prompts-calls-for-yorkshire-wide-deal

A ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution proposal was also put forward in 2017, which would have included North Yorkshire as part of a pan Yorkshire deal. This vision was supported by 18 of the 20 Yorkshire councils that existed at the time, 36 City of York Council, ‘One Yorkshire Devolution’ City of York Council (no date) retrieved 12 October 2023, www.york.gov.uk/OneYorkshire. but it was rejected by ministers on the grounds that this large region did not form a coherent economic area. 37 House of Lords, Hansard, ‘Yorkshire Devolution’ HL Deb 12 February 2019, vol 795, cols 1738-39.  The government instead struck separate mayoral devolution deals with South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. The City of York Council is a non-constituent member of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The York and North Yorkshire devolution deal was signed by ministers and local leaders on 1 August 2022, with the first mayoral election scheduled for 2 May 2024. 38 Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, ‘York and North Yorkshire devolution deal’ Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, 1 August 2022, retrieved 12 October 2023, www.gov.uk/government/publications/york-and-north-yorkshire-devolution-deal/york-and-north-yorkshire-devolution-deal.  On 1 April 2023 a new unitary council was formed for North Yorkshire, replacing the county council and seven former district and borough councils (Craven, Harrogate, Hambleton, Scarborough, Richmondshire, Ryedale and Selby). This local government reorganisation made it easier for the area to agree and implement a devolution deal. 39 North Yorkshire Council, ‘Devolution’ North Yorkshire Council (no date), retrieved 12 October 2023, www.northyorks.gov.uk/your-council/devolution.

What is the York and North Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority?

The York and North Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (YNYCA) will be a legal body established by parliament which brings together the local authorities of City of York Council and North Yorkshire Council.

The Combined Authority will consist of five voting members, the elected mayor and four elected members (a lead member and a further member for each constituent council) as well as a non-voting business representative. 40 Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, ‘York and North Yorkshire devolution deal’ Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, 1 August 2022, retrieved 12 October 2023, www.gov.uk/government/publications/york-and-north-yorkshire-devolution-deal/york-and-north-yorkshire-devolution-deal.

North Yorkshire Council is controlled by the Conservatives, while City of York Council has a Labour administration.

Both councils provisionally approved the creation of the YNYCA in February 2023. The York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority Order 2023 to establish the YNYCA was laid in parliament on 7 November 2023, and became law on 19 December 2023. The combined authority launched on 1 February 2024.

Who are the candidates for York and North Yorkshire mayor?

Parties are currently selecting their candidates for the new position of mayor of York and North Yorkshire.

The Conservative’s candidate will be Keane Duncan, a councillor and executive member for highways and transportation on North Yorkshire Council. 47 Connell D, ‘Keane Duncan Conservative candidate for Mayor of York’ The York Press, 15 July 2023, retrieved 12 October 2023, www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/23657713.keane-duncan-conservative-candidate-mayor-york/.  Labour's candidate will be David Skaith, a York businessman. 48 David Skaith, Tweet, 13 December 2024, www.twitter.com/DSkaith/status/1734992567329001675?s=20

The Green Party’s candidate will be Kevin Foster, a North Yorkshire councillor. 49 //www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/news/23895879.green-party-pick-ex-soldier-north-yorkshire-mayoral-vote/. Keith Tordoff has announced that he will run as an independent, having initially been selected by the Yorkshire Party as their candidate. 50 Harrogate Informer, ‘Keith Tordoff from Yorkshire Party to Independent for Mayoral campaign’ Harrogate Informer, 12 June 2023, retrieved 12 October 2023, www.harrogate-news.co.uk/2023/06/13/keith-tordoff-from-yorkshire-party-to-independent-for-mayoral-campaign/.

The Liberal Democrats have yet to select and announce their candidate.

What powers will the mayor and combined authority hold?

The new mayor and combined authority will hold powers over transport, skills, planning and regeneration, and policing and fire services.

YNYCA will have control of a long-term investment fund, with £18m per year of funding promised by the government over 30 years. The authority will be responsible for the core adult education budget, and will have input into new local skills improvement plans.

Land assembly and compulsory purchase powers, the ability to designate mayoral development areas and establish mayoral development corporations, and the power to call in planning decisions will also be devolved. Up to £2.65m will be given to YNYCA as a one-off investment towards delivering low-carbon homes, to pilot new energy efficiency or shared ownership schemes. 51 Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, ‘York and North Yorkshire devolution deal’ Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, 1 August 2022, retrieved 12 October 2023, www.gov.uk/government/publications/york-and-north-yorkshire-devolution-deal/york-and-north-yorkshire-devolution-deal.

YNYCA will control a devolved transport budget, and will have bus franchising powers and power to draw up a local transport plan. It will also have control of a Key Route Network of major roads. 

The powers of the police, fire and crime commissioner will be transferred to the mayor, with a deputy mayor appointed to carry out the everyday functions of the role.

The devolution deal recognises York and North Yorkshire’s ambition to become England’s first carbon-negative region, and commits to provide a £7m investment towards this. The devolution deal also includes a role in culture and tourism. YNYCA will be able to work in partnership with the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s arm’s length bodies to develop the region’s cultural potential.   

The mayor will have the power to impose a council tax precept, with the agreement of the authority as a whole. The power to charge a business rates supplement is also being devolved.

How does York and North Yorkshire compare to the UK in terms of social and economic outcomes?

The YNYCA region as a whole lags the UK average in terms of labour productivity, but is above average in other economic indicators including disposable household income, skills and employment rates. However, on each of these indicators at least one ex-local authority area is below the UK average. 

Most of the region falls below the national average for the share of workers commuting by public transport. Only York is above average on this measure. Scarborough and York are also the only two areas within YNYCA that have below UK average carbon emissions. Selby has the highest, at 168% of the UK national average, driven by industry and transport.

A scatter plot from the Institute for Government comparing areas within the YNYCA against both the YNYCA and UK average for measurements such as carbon emissions, employment rate and social mobility index.

How does YNYCA overlap with other administrative boundaries?

YNYCA will cover the same geography as the York and North Yorkshire local enterprise partnership, which is being integrated into the combined authority.

The North Yorkshire police and the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service are also coterminous with YNYCA, enabling the mayor to take on responsibility for these services.

North Yorkshire and York are both constituent authorities in Transport for the North, a sub-national transport body. 52 Transport for the North, ‘Local Authorities’ Transport for the North, (no date) retrieved 12 October 2023, www.transportforthenorth.com/our-north/local-authorities/.

The Humber and North Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership includes and extends beyond YNYCA boundaries, and the devolution agreement does not include health. 

York council will retain its status as a non-constituent member of neighbouring West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

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