West Yorkshire devolution revealed by Chancellor as coronavirus dominates Budget

An historic devolution deal to give West Yorkshire an elected mayor with £1.8bn in spending powers has been announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as he unveiled a  £30 billion package to stimulate the economy in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

The deal worth £38m per year for 30 years, was unveiled today by West Yorkshire leaders after being announced by the Chancellor in his first Budget speech, which was hastily rewritten in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The deal brings to an end five years of haggling over a transfer of powers away from government, and will see Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield overseen by one mayoral authority.

Read more: Recap of Budget 2020 as Rishi Sunak confirms West Yorkshire devolution deal

The metro mayor elected in 2021 will have control of a £63m annual adult education budget, a host of new decision-making powers and a guaranteed £1.1bn over the next 30 years in a new West Yorkshire Investment Fund.

Mr Sunak told MPs that West Yorkshire and the Sheffield City Region would both get access to a 'London-style funding settlement' worth £2.4bn.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak poses for the cameras outside Downing Street. Pic: PA

Chancellor Rishi Sunak poses for the cameras outside Downing Street. Pic: PA

And a 'British Library North' could be created in Leeds with the help of £25m in new government funding, with a further £95m for the British Library site at Boston Spa.

In his speech, delivered just weeks after he took office, Mr Sunak acknowledged the "challenging times" faced by the economy because of the coronovirus outbreak.

He delivered a Budget statement which acknowledged the British people were worried about the threat posed by the virus "but they are not daunted".

Mr Sunak said there was "likely to be a temporary disruption" to the economy but insisted his plans would bring "stability and security".

The scale of the challenge facing the economy was underlined by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in forecasts prepared before the full impact of the virus could be known.

Growth is expected to fall to 1.1 per cent in 2020, down from 1.2 per cent last year.

Measures to help the economy cope included:

- A £1 billion business rates holiday in the coming year for retail, leisure and hospitality firms with a rateable value of under £51,000

- The Government will fully meet the cost of providing statutory sick pay for up to 14 days for workers in firms with up to 250 employees, providing over £2 billion for up to two million businesses.

- Reforms to the benefits system to make it easier to access funds will provide a £500 million boost to the welfare system, along with a £500 million hardship fund

- A new coronavirus business interruption loan scheme offering government guarantees to support banks lending £1 billion to small businesses

- A £3,000 cash grant to businesses eligible for small business rates relief

Ahead of the spending review later this year, Mr Sunak said the OBR had declared the Budget represented "the latest sustained fiscal boost for 30 years".

By the end of the Parliament in 2024 day-to-day spending on public services will be £100 billion higher in cash terms than it is today, he said.

And the speech contained a host of pledges to support Yorkshire and the North, including the creation of a new economic campus which will see 750 Treasury and other government staff based in the region.

After Yorkshire was badly-hit by floods, £23.4 million was committed to ensure the delivery of Hebden Bridge and Brighouse Flood Alleviation Schemes and a further £71.5m in flood defence funding to better protect over 9,500 properties across Cleethorpes, Goole and Sheffield.

The Sheffield City Region will get £166m to improve transport links in Barnsley and create a new tram stop at Magna on the Rotherham line.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust; will get a share of the £2.7 billion for six major hospital schemes from the Government's Health Infrastructure Plan.

And the Treasury announced a £77.1 million investment to deliver homes on the flagship York Central site, though details of what this will be used for have yet to be revealed.

During his speech Mr Sunak also announced that investment in research and development would be increased to £22 billion and that a higher proportion of science research would go to universities outside the 'golden triangle' of London and the South East.

Henri Murison, Director of Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “A northern Chancellor has given a budget which makes a credible start towards levelling up – closing the North – South divide by investing in the infrastructure which will underpin the Northern Powerhouse.

"Ensuring those living and growing up here today can take advantage of the opportunities that will be created here is the challenge for the Comprehensive Spending Review.”

IPPR North Director Sarah Longlands warns that more must be done to “level up” the country: “A budget that seeks to level up is long overdue, but it is nowhere near enough.

“For too long, the North has been let down. Too much power is hoarded by Whitehall. Over the last decade that power has been used to impose devastating austerity, which has disproportionately impacted upon the North’s economic and human potential.

“A levelled-up England is one where all regions, towns and cities can realise their potential. Where inequalities, between and within regions no longer exist, and opportunity and prosperity are open to everyone across the country.

"To achieve this, we need to rebuild the foundations of our local communities devastated by austerity. That means much more coherent and long-term investment for local education, childcare, skills and health services."