Independent Commission calls for Combined Authority based on Humber and merger of Hull and East Riding Councils
13th January 2016
AN independent boundary Commission's report is calling for the merger of Hull and East Riding Councils and a devolved Combined Authority based on the Humber in its joint recommendations.
The Commission, overseen by the Institute of Local Government Studies (inlogov), says in its report that a fresh joint approach to economic development and local government is needed in Hull and the East Riding. In recognising the need to take account of the rapidly developing Government agenda on Devolution and the Northern Powerhouse, the Commission crucially says that with Northern Powerhouse and Enterprise Zone developments in mind, it believes that there is -a powerful case for a Combined Authority based on the Humber, providing focus for the development of the economy, distribution networks, infrastructure and environmental matters centred on it. The Commission says recent political animosities which have stood in the way of progress should be addressed and the possibility of a Humber Combined Authority brought back onto the table. Chamber President Steve Eastwood welcomed the report saying: -This is a compelling and profoundly important report from some of the most eminent and respected people in our community I commend it to the Government as a blueprint for action. The Commission's full press release is below and further information and links to sources may be found through the Commission's pages on INLOGOV's website at: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/government-society/departments/local-government-studies/research/hull-commission.aspx Hull and the East Riding are interconnected and should seek a fresh way forward together says Hull Commission The Hull Commission's final report was published today (13th January 2016). The independent Commission says that a fresh joint approach to economic development and local government organisation is needed in Hull and the East Riding. It found that the two areas often pull in different directions when they should be managed as one system. A new outward looking approach is needed if the area as a whole is to make the most of the opportunities available from devolution and the Northern Powerhouse. The Commission was asked to review the effects of the existing boundary on the city and sub-region. The existing boundary has the effect of making Hull look like a small city of 256,000, with up to 240,000 people and 2,700 businesses left out of the picture. Given the real size of its travel to work area and economy 'Greater Hull' should be considered as being a city of around 500,000. The boundary significantly skews not only statistics and the way the area is perceived but works against the ability of the city and sub-region to function effectively as a single economic unit. One possible way forward would be to move the boundary further into the East Riding. However, the Commission takes the view that this would be highly unpopular, could well make the remainder of the East Riding unviable and, in any case, is probably impossible under current Boundary Commission rules. We have therefore concluded that the only logical solution to the boundary issue would be to merge the two local authorities. This would make it far easier to join up economic development and infrastructure strategies and develop more effective arrangements for health and social care commissioning. Furthermore, complete removal of the boundary would achieve a political balance and overcome some of the reasons behind public opposition to redrawing it. We note, of course, the political realities that make this logical solution a probable non-starter in the immediate future. We also recognise the need to take account of the rapidly developing Government agenda on devolution and the Northern Powerhouse. The Commission was required to consider ways in which local government in Hull and the East Riding might better meet the goals of being effective, efficient and accountable. The devolution agenda has moved very swiftly, yet Hull and the East Riding are still not part of devolved arrangements such as those in Greater Manchester and the Sheffield City Region, pooling expertise on growth and infrastructure, with greater powers to make positive change happen. The Commission considers that this must be urgently addressed. Furthermore, with the Northern Powerhouse and Enterprise Zone developments in mind, the Commission continues to believe that there is a powerful case for a Combined Authority based on the Humber, providing focus for the development of the economy, distribution networks, infrastructure and environmental matters centred on it. Political animosities have stood in the way of progress on this option in the recent past. If at all possible they should be addressed and the possibility of a Humber Combined Authority brought back onto the table. We believe that appropriate consultation with business and a full public debate would make it possible and this is reflected in our recommendations. We hear that there is now a possibility that Hull will become a partner, without the East Riding, in the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. This is a poor outcome because it neglects the economic significance of the Humber, leaves Hull as a small, junior partner and cements the boundary problem further. We also hear that the East Riding is in active discussions with North Yorkshire and York about a North Yorkshire Combined Authority. This would present a similarly poor outcome because it would take the -Greater Hull business rates with it into a different pool, splitting the economic development and infrastructure planning further away from Hull. Given all the above, the Commission has concluded that Hull and the East Riding must be managed as one system, not two. This would provide the area with a much more powerful voice in any Combined Authority arrangements. The Chair of the Hull Commission, Tom Martin said: -Our report seeks to provide Hull and the East Riding with a springboard for action and an acceleration and deepening of co-operation between the two councils. Hull has huge potential for economic development, the East Riding currently provides much of the space for this to happen and in turn Hull provides the key urban facilities for much of the whole area. We consider that the two areas are in fact an interlocking single system and should develop as such. In effect they have one heart but are of two minds, yet it is clear that one cannot exist without the other. We therefore consider that significant change is needed to develop single policies, strategies and operational management plans for the whole of the Hull and East Riding area. This would require bravery on the part of politicians and communities in both areas, but we believe that the end prize would be well worth the effort, giving them a significant single voice in the Northern Powerhouse. In doing this there is a need to look beyond the minutiae of local politics to the larger regional, national and indeed international stage, it being noted that the Humber's future lies as much across the North and Baltic seas as it does in the sub region. As part of the Northern Powerhouse and with devolution in the air, the opportunities are there for the taking. It is vital that Hull and the East Riding do not miss out.