Memorandum by the Yorkshire and Humber
Assembly (RG 83)
1. Around five million people live in the
Yorkshire and Humber region. As well as thriving towns and cities,
it has more National Park land, historic houses and castles than
any other region, and boasts spectacular scenery and a Heritage
coastline. It's also one of Europe's fastest growing regions,
and home to more than a quarter of a million companies, many of
them from overseas. Our economy ranks amongst the top third in
2. The Yorkshire and Humber Assembly is
the region's strategic partnership working to improve the quality
of life for everyone who lives and works here. Our core functions
include regional planning and transport, scrutiny of the Regional
Development Agency, Strategic Alignment and Sustainable Development.
3. The Assembly has representatives from
local government, business, public sector agencies, education
and training bodies, trade unions and the voluntary and community
sector. This broad based membership ensures that regional agencies
and bodies are accountable and responsive to the needs of the
region. By combining our experience and knowledge and working
together, we achieve more and get things done faster.
4. In the absence of directly elected regional
government there are no formal accountability mechanisms in place
at regional level. The alternative "informal" arrangements
are exercised through the representative assemblies known in all
English regions as Regional Assemblies.
5. In Yorkshire and Humber we ensure regional
accountability in the following ways:
As the regional strategic partnership
-the combination of local government providing the democratically
accountable voice (60% of members) alongside that of partners
(40% of members) ensures that decisions taken at a regional level
are shaped by views within the region and are accountable back
to the region.
Through formal scrutiny of the
work of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), and delivery of
the Regional Economic Strategy. In this region, eight scrutiny
reviews have been completed looking at issues ranging from business
start-ups to the role of cities, and skills. Each review is accompanied
by an action plan to be implemented within 12 months of publicationensuring
tangible results that add real value.
Ensuring robust internal governance
structures so that policies developed by the Assembly are fully
owned by the region (particularly important in the development
and submission of our Regional Spatial Strategy);
By working with partners to
align regional strategies within the framework of our Integrated
Regional StrategyAdvancing Together. This describes our
vision and long-term objectives for the region. Progress is monitored
against a suite of 32 high-level regional indicators and reported
to the region each year in the Progress in the Region report produced
by our regional observatory Yorkshire Futures.
By ensuring our actions are
sustainable in the long-term. We provide guidance and appraisal
mechanisms in our regional sustainable development framework (RSDF).
This is widely used at all levels in the region and ensures that
all plans have consistent and complementary actions (particularly
aligning economic development, housing, planning and transport)
that together move us towards achieving the long-term vision set
out in Advancing Together.
6. Although these arrangements have worked
well we have also been looking ahead to see if our accountability
and decision making processes are still appropriate given the
changing regional agenda. This work has taken place in the context
of two challenges. One from government
and the other from the region itself. As a result, a fundamental
review of the Assembly has sought to clarify our purpose, functions
and working process.
7. As part of this process, in November
2005 the Assembly hosted a regional governance symposium, chaired
by Peter Hetherington. This event brought together the key players
in the region to consider our future governance arrangements.
A full report of the day, including a range of specially produced
background papers can be found at http://www.yhassembly.gov.uk/index.cfm?routine=content&channel
8. In summary this event concluded that
the Assembly continued to have an important and unique role in
ensuring regional accountability and strategic alignment. In particular
reconfirmed our commitment to
the continued value of regional partnership working;
agreed that in the absence of
elected assemblies democratic accountability for regional decisions
can only come from the active involvement of local authorities
in regional decision making; and
that the strength of the existing
Assembly is a consequence of combining local authority and partner
(social, economic and environmental) engagement.
9. As a result the Assembly is introducing
revised and simplified governance arrangements. These retain the
existing broad based assembly and include a renewed regional executive
board that has representatives from Government Office and the
Regional Development Agency as observers. The regional executive
board will be the focus for regional co-ordiantion and alignment.
Functional boards for housing, transport and planning will work
alongside the RDA board to ensure that these key areas of activity
are effectively joined up. A sustainable development board and
a standing scrutiny board will provide robust challenge within
the system. A full report setting out our renewed governance arrangements
can be found at http://www.yhassembly.gov.uk/index.cfm?routine=content&channel=YHA%20eetings&contentid=865.
10. Despite this progress we are clear that
there are a number of further steps that could be taken which
would help increase the accountability of decision-making at the
regional and sub-regional level. These include:
Expanding and strengthening
the scrutiny role of the Assembly to enable oversight of the full
range of regional activity ensuring better and more accountable
strategies in the region which would in turn make a greater contribution
to achieving national priorities.
Greater involvement by the Assembly
in the appointment of board members to NDPBs operating in the
More involvement of MPs and
MEPs in the work of the Assembly and the region. For instance,
there may be a case for a select committee for each region, or
a committee for the regions at Westminster or an annual state
of the regions debate. The Yorkshire and Humber Assembly would
be keen to work in partnership with government to investigate
possible ways of engaging MPs/MEPs in future work.
Recognition from Government
of the important leadership role played by regional strategic
boards. In this region that Assembly has chaired the Regional
Co-ordination Board that has prepared advice to government on
Regional Funding Allocations. This regional board includes senior
level representatives from Government Office and Yorkshire Forward
and will provide the basis for our new strengthened regional executive
board (see para 9 above).
11. The Government announcement to proceed
with the merger of Regional Housing Boards and Regional Planning
Bodies is a good example of existing arrangements being simplified
and increased accountability being achieved.
12. Another possibility for simplifying
arrangements relates to recent work on Regional Funding Allocations.
Government should respond positively to any future requests from
regions to work more flexibly though greater use of pooled budgets
such as those developed by the Regional Skills Partnerships, RDAs
(the single pot concept) and through Local Area Agreements. Using
resources more flexibly, within the national PSA target framework,
would allow the development of regional solutions to specific
regional issues. This would ensure that national standards were
met and maintained whilst allowing greater regional flexibility,
resulting in fewer targets and more accountability to the regions.
13. On the grounds of simplification and increased
accountability Government should also give full consideration
to extending the scope of the Regional Funding Allocations to
encompass funding for skills development. Skills policy is a key
contributor to regional economic performance and there is already
close working by regional partners to deliver better skills through
Regional Skills Partnerships.
14. The Yorkshire and Humber Assembly is
committed to the principle of subsidiarity, ensuring that decisions
are taken at the most appropriate level. The current functions
of the Assembly are those that are best dealt with at the regional
level. (ie preparation of the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS)
including the Regional Transport Strategy, scrutiny of the RDA,
policy co-ordination at the regional level and acting as the voice
of the region). It should be noted however that the Assembly is
not a service delivery body. Our role is to provide a strategic
overview of regional activity, to develop strategic frameworks
for action, to support policy development and to ensure outcomes
are monitored and progress reported to the region.
15. Delivery is invariably through local
level agencies, primarily local authorities. Because these bodies
are members of the Assembly we are uniquely placed to ensure effective
co-ordination between strategy and delivery.
16. In addition to our strong links with
local delivery we are also working closely with a range of sub
regional delivery partnerships. These include sub-regional investment
planning (economic development) bodies, sub regional housing partnerships,
the housing market renewal pathfinders and local authority sub
17. An example of how these arrangements
ensure proper management and tracking of service delivery can
be seen in the way that we now monitor our regional progress.
Each of our four sub regions independently produce their own Progress
in the Sub Region report. These follow the same format as the
regional report and include measurement of progress using a common
set of indicators based around our six regional objectives. Progress
is then judged against how well our services collectively deliver
overall regional objectives.
18. Many Assembly members have been closely
involved in the development of the city region agenda although
there are still different views about the role of city regions
as economic "drivers". For many however, the city regions
are considered an effective and useful unit for economic planning
and we have expressed a willingness and commitment to work collaboratively
at this level for the economic benefit of all the regions communities.
19. In recognition of this, as part of our
new governance structures we will be including a representative
from each of our three city regions alongside our existing sub
regional representatives on the renewed regional executive board.
This will ensure that all existing and emerging bodies in the
region can play their full part in regional activity. We would
now like to see emerging Government policy acknowledge that cities
and regions are complimentary and mutually supportive
20. The Assembly has made it clear that
the application of the city region concept must not be carried
forward at the expense of smaller towns and rural areas. It is
important that any strategy to grow the region benefits the whole
of Yorkshire and Humber. The needs of those extensive areas that
lie outside city regions (and also the rural and peripheral areas
that lie within them) must not suffer because economic development
priorities are developed with too narrow a focus on larger cities.
21. The Assembly has welcomed the northern
Way initiative and supports its ambition to tackle the £30
billion economic gap between the three northern regions and the
rest of England. In the long term if we are to have any real prospect
of closing the economic gap between north and south we must develop
a genuinely pan regionally approach that focuses on long-term
investment on selected strategic projects (eg transport and infrastructure)
that support the growth of Yorkshire and Humber as a whole. We
look forward to working through the Northern Way to develop future
plans for step-change projects backed by the necessary levels
105 Letter from David Miliband MP to Cllr David Smith,
Chair English Regions Network 18 November 2005. Back