Next year, 2024, marks ten years since the current phase of English devolution started with the Greater Manchester Agreement in 2014.
When we talk about devolution, for many it isn’t really clear what it means, with a lack of clarity on what it really means, whether you are a resident, a business owner or council leader.
With a variety of approaches by the government to English devolution over the years, it can mean different things to different people.
When it comes to getting a devolution deal for our area, progress has been slow. This is the only part of Yorkshire without a deal, and we need to ensure we aren’t left behind.
It has been evident that the government wants to deal more and more with those areas that have a devolution deal in place ahead of those that don’t.
The purposes of devolution include improving decision-making, boosting economic growth and strengthening democracy. We are right now in the process of considering a bespoke deal for Hull and the East Riding.
In June this year, following an invitation from the Minister for Levelling Up, the leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Councillor Anne Handley and I confirmed a commitment to considering how devolution could work for our region.
In July, Hull’s cabinet gave permission for the council’s to formally begin negotiations with Government for a possible devolution deal between the two authorities, and we are now in the middle of those discussions.
We are at a crucial stage in that process. If the government are prepared to support our city – particularly in key areas like brownfield redevelopment, inward investment and skills – we could be close to agreeing a deal that we would then want to put to residents across Hull and the East Riding.
That could mean there is an announcement on progress in the government’s autumn statement, a local public consultation could follow in early 2024, with a potential Mayoral election in 2025.
To justify the additional cost and bureaucracy of the governance, however, any deal will have to really deliver for our city.
I have been clear from the start that the best interests of Hull are of paramount consideration in any deal.
The deal under discussion is what is known as a Level 3 deal. This would involve a combined authority with a directly elected Mayor. This would bring additional investment into the area, and more powers to make decisions at a local level.
It would also mean the creation of a combined authority, which would see Hull and East Riding councils working closely together on strategic issues, such as economic investment and transport.
Whilst there is still a lot of work to do, I am clear that a top priority in any potential deal is the local economy, because we know that our residents want to see more good jobs created in the city.
Alongside this, we are also in discussions to ensure the close co-operation around economic regeneration continues at Humber level.
There are huge opportunities to attract further investment and jobs across the Humber region and Hull has a vital role to play in this.
We want to ensure that Hull residents have access to the skills and opportunities that would allow them to secure a good job as the city’s economy improves.
It has been slow progress up to now but, ultimately, my administration will only support a devolution deal which we believe will benefit the people of Hull.
The government needs to be serious about the powers and support they are prepared to give us and a “run of the mill” deal is unlikely to pass that test, either by the council or the local community.
The Hull and East Riding area is not big in comparison to most devolved regions, so we need to punch above our weight and any deal must reflect that.
Public awareness on the issue of devolution, nationally, is varied and residents can be forgiven for having other priorities in their busy lives to focus on than the machinations of bureaucratic processes, but Hull residents will play a crucial role in determining the devolution deal put before them.
It is their lives that will benefit from the opportunities that devolution can bring; improved infrastructure, better public transport and increased job opportunities.
Should we get to that point, all residents across the area will have their chance to have their say on any deal and ultimately it would be them who get to vote for a mayor.
Despite the challenges I remain hopeful about devolution for Hull I am confident we can get there if both sides are committed to achieving this goal.