Largest ever consultation of regional devolution as thousands have their say in West Yorkshire

West Yorkshire council leadersWest Yorkshire council leaders
West Yorkshire council leaders
MORE than 4,000 people had their say on devolution plans for West Yorkshire – making it the biggest ever consultation on English regional devolution.

The West Yorkshire public have been thanked by leaders for their response to the consultation, which ran from May 25 to July 19.

The high response was achieved despite lockdown being in place throughout the consultation period.

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When council leaders discussed the planned consultation earlier this year, Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe raised concerns that devolution was not a subject that excited many.

She said: “The word devolution is quite off-putting. People will glaze over when you mention it. It does sound quite technical, and the challenge is to make it sound more interesting.”

Due to coronavirus-related restrictions, West Yorkshire Combined Authority put in place a number of measures to raise awareness and make sure the consultation was as accessible as possible to all, including working with leading research agency Ipsos MORI to send postal copies of the survey to households that are less likely to be able to complete an online survey.

In a joint statement, the leaders of West Yorkshire councils said: “We would like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation – especially given the difficult circumstances. The consultation has helped us understand the issues that matter to the people of West Yorkshire and will inform our response to Government, as we look to progress this landmark West Yorkshire devolution deal.

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“Devolution is an incredible opportunity for all of us. Alongside significant new spending, it means more decisions that affect the lives of people in West Yorkshire will be taken here by people who know and understand the region.”

The consultation was about the West Yorkshire ‘minded-to’ devolution deal signed between West Yorkshire leaders and the Government in March. It will see more than £1.8 billion of funding come under local control, alongside a historic transfer of powers to the region, as well as a directly-elected West Yorkshire mayor, with elections to be held in May 2021.

The deal means decisions across key areas, such as better transport, skills, the economy, housing and regeneration will be taken in West Yorkshire.

With a total of 4,114 responses, the West Yorkshire consultation is the largest ever public consultation on English regional devolution. In addition, over 140 individual questions were submitted, and responses from the Combined Authority will be published online “where relevant”.

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The consultation asked respondents their views on the deal West Yorkshire council leaders agreed with the Government in March 2020, and was run as an online survey on the Combined Authority’s YourVoice consultation and engagement website.

It is the critical first stage in the process that will pave the way for elections in May 2021, when the people of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield will be able to vote for the first ever West Yorkshire Mayor.

The results of the public consultation will be considered by West Yorkshire partner councils and the Combined Authority later in the summer, and then submitted to the Government as part of the parliamentary process to establish a mayoral combined authority for the region.

The draft order is expected to be presented to parliament later in the year, and the final bill may be be passed into legislation in December.

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