George Osborne
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Nick Hill

Budget 2016: Business leaders urge the Chancellor to make Leeds City Region devolution deal

Ahead of the Budget, over 60 business leaders have signed an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for a devolution deal for the Leeds City Region, declaring it as the “only pragmatic solution.”

The signatories, including the Presidents of Leeds, Bradford and Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, the EEF, ASDA and Yorkshire Building Society, have all pledged their support for a Leeds City Region deal

They are urging the Chancellor to signal progress in the budget speech tomorrow.

Pledges of support range from local SMEs to multinationals, Universities, FE Colleges and business representative groups.

A proposed Leeds City Region devolution deal will focus on faster economic growth, more jobs for local people, improved and more affordable transport and housing, and more control of government funding.

Ultimately, the proposed deal ensures that decisions on the issues directly affecting the City Region are made by people within the area.

The letter explains that a City Region deal is an important step towards more comprehensive devolution in Yorkshire, enabling 75% of the regional economy currently without devolution to have access to the benefits it presents quickly, with those benefits extending to the whole of the region as other proposals advance further.

The letter states that “as northern business and education leaders, we have major concerns about the continued absence of a meaningful devolution deal for such a significant economic area with a core city at its heart. We believe that further delays in securing such a deal would be to the detriment of jobs, growth and business investment, not just in our region but across the North and beyond”

It ends by confirming “the only pragmatic solution that could be implemented within a reasonable timescale is, in our view, a deal for the Leeds City Region, followed by others as soon as practicably possible. If more can be achieved, so much the better – but it does not make sense to delay progress in such a large part of the region.”

Roger March OBE, the LEP chair, said: “If our region wants to see progress soon, the only immediate option is a Leeds City Region deal. The other proposed solutions are not workable, certainly not within the 2017 timescale that Manchester, Sheffield and others are working towards. We are supportive of other deals following as quickly as possible, with the appropriate collaborative links on issues such as culture, sport and tourism.

“However, if a City Region deal isn’t agreed swiftly, not only will the whole of Yorkshire continue to miss out, but also the North and the nation.

“Our message to the Chancellor is simple - give us the tools and we can continue to deliver.”

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