Skills and transport: What does the Harrogate district need from the new combined authority?
Last updated Feb 3, 2024
James Farrar.
James Farrar speaking at Thursday's launch event.

This week marked the start of a new era of governance across North Yorkshire.

On Thursday, the newly created York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority launched, paving the way for a multi-million pound devolution deal to come to fruition.

The authority, which will be headed by an elected mayor after May, promises power over transport, skills and adult education.

In a packed Guildhall in York, politicians, authority and business leaders gathered to hear what the combined authority would mean for them.

Those in attendance came from all over North Yorkshire and York to brush shoulders with leaders who will be tasked with lobbying for millions in government funding.

Among them was Harrogate College principal Danny Wild.

The Stray Ferret asked Mr Wild what Harrogate would need from the new authority and how it would help him and his students.

Danny Wild.

Danny Wild

He pointed to the adult education budget, which the combined authority will be responsible for from August 2025.

Mr Wild said funding to help people re-train and develop their skills will be important for the Harrogate district as they look for higher skilled jobs.

He said:

“What we are hoping is it will help our adults to upskill and feel they are making a contribution to society.”

However, equally as important is transport. Mr Wild said he has students who come from Boroughbridge who take more than an hour to get into college.

‘You need to connect people to opportunities’

The sentiment over transport and skills is one shared by James Farrar, director of economy and interim head of paid service at York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority.

He said the combined authority and elected mayor will be armed with new money which will allow it to “be ambitious”.

The Stray Ferret asked Mr Farrar if he recognised the concerns raised by Mr Wild over skills and transport in the Harrogate area.

He said:

“Ultimately, you need to connect people to opportunities. It’s fine creating opportunities, but if people can’t physically get there or if they don’t have the skills that those job require then local people are not going to benefit from those opportunities.

“The opportunity that the mayor brings is to operate and think at a place level. At the heart of our planning, we have great places. Obviously, Harrogate and Ripon are two great places in the region.

“We will be looking at those places and asking what it means and how people get around those places and what skills do they have.”

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But how will the combined authority decide which area is most in need of investment in skills, transport or education?

For Cllr Carl Les, the Conservative leader of North Yorkshire Council, the projects must be “equitable”.

Cllr Les, who was late to the event due to traffic on the A19 coming into York on Thursday, said a lot of his speech was due to focus on looking at North Yorkshire in its entirety.

He said much of the combined authority’s role will be “focussing on the whole” of the county.

“What we have to make sure is that the combined authority looks at the quality of the projects that we want to deliver and make sure that we deliver equitable projects across the piece.”

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