Recent weeks have seen Simon Clarke, Minister of State for Regional Growth, continue to make progress with devolution around the county and is vital York is not left behind. Devolution is the process by which powers and money are devolved (or 'passed down') from government to local regions. They are likely to be spent on areas like transport and infrastructure and in York it could be pivotal for the likes of the York Central site or dualling the York Outer Ring Road. Invariably they would involve a Mayor and whilst there was some talk of a Mayor for all of Yorkshire such a broad geography looks totally improbable and has long been rejected by government.
As part of devolution funding the government is looking at changes to local government to ensure council sizes are effective. The Conservatives in York are concerned that the city's Lib Dem and Green coalition are too busy squabbling about the York Central project and finding ways to make car drivers' lives difficult are not open to the potential of devolution and funding that it will unlock which will be particularly vital for the Covid recovery.
Councillor Paul Doughty, leader of the Conservative Group on City of York Council has said it is vital all aspects of local council democracy are looked at so York can get the best possible deal.
Paul commented 'The Government suggest an optimum devolved unitary authority would be near 400,000 population, meaning York is under efficient currently. We know inefficiencies in York need to be dealt with and the promise of devolution investment from national Government will depend on this being addressed. The need is more important in view of pressures Covid-19 has brought. We don’t see doing nothing as an option but statements from the Lib Dem-led Council thus far (and Labour) suggest they aim to protect their own individual empires rather than what’s best for York and neighbouring local authorities. In one of the possible deals talked about, which would give the population size the government needs, York could partner with the likes of Ryedale, Selby and Scarborough where there are huge overlaps in terms of living, working and all aspects of life. It would be totally wrong for the leadership in York not to at least explore the possibilities.