Enhancing the Student Civic Experience: A Roadmap to Empower Students

Universities across the UK should embed a ‘truly civic’ approach that equips all students as lifelong active citizens through formal learning, campus activities, and community engagement, according to a new report jointly produced by the Civic University Network and the UPP Foundation.

The report, Enhancing the Student Civic Experience, argues that universities have a fundamental responsibility to promote robust civic and democratic education regardless of a student’s field of study.

Report author Dr Andy Mycock, Chief Policy Fellow, Y-PERN Chief Policy Fellow comments: “As we prepare for a new UK government, the launch of the Enhancing the Student Civic Experience report offers a much-needed new lens to understand the social value of higher education, providing an opportunity to reflect on the value and contributions of students in developing innovative and impactful forms of civic engagement and knowledge exchange.”

Key recommendations for civic engagement

Based on input from two national workshops involving representatives from across higher education and leading civil society and student organisations, the report outlines four key recommendations:

  • Supporting Democratic Participation through practices like compulsory voter registration, on-campus polling, and legislative ‘surgeries’.
  • Acknowledging the student civic experience in metrics like the Teaching Excellence Framework and National Student Survey.
  • Refreshing Civic University Agreements to formally recognise the importance and value of the student civic experience to ‘truly civic’ universities.
  • Creating a ‘What Works’ civic learning resource hub and funding further research.

The report also recommends universities and Students’ Unions should undertake an annual ‘Student Civic Health Check’ to assess levels of civic engagement and participation in systems of representation, student elections, and local democratic and volunteering networks.

Innovative approaches from Yorkshire and Humber

Many of the case studies which informed the report came from university partners in the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Engagement and Research Network who provided examples of innovative approaches to student civic engagement.

“They highlight the potential for all students to learn about and participate in evidence-based policymaking during their time at university, both as part of their formal studies and through extracurricular activities,” says Dr Mycock.

Partners across Y-PERN are exploring how policy engagement can form part of the broader student civic experience. For example, colleagues at the University of Hull are developing a module on Policy Impact which focuses on local and regional policy and community engagement for post-graduate students. Y-PERN has also hosted an early-career workshop on regional policy engagement in West Yorkshire, involving postgraduate students from across the region. 

Improving town-gown relations

Richard Brabner, Executive Chair of the UPP Foundation said: “Student participation in their local communities through volunteering, extra-curricular activities and work experience as part of their degree is incredibly valuable. It helps town-gown relations and supports student employability. This report offers a plan for what an effective student civic service programme could look like and we call on the next government and higher education sector to embrace its findings.”

Professor Chris Wiggington is Pro Vice-Chancellor for Global and Academic Partnerships at Sheffield Hallam University which leads the Civic University Network. He said: “Our degrees and apprenticeships must enable students to develop true civic identities. This means providing sustained opportunities for civic learning, participation in governance, and connections to local communities.  Higher education holds incredible potential to support students to become engaged and active citizens. There is a need to promote universities as civic and democratic communities of participation to prepare them for a lifelong commitment as active citizens.”

Sophie Duncan and Paul Manners, Co-Directors, NCCPE said: “We warmly welcome this report. The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement always been interested in how to maximise the potential of student involvement in universities’ public, community and civic engagement. The report lays out a clear set of recommendations and challenges – and we are committed to working with the sector to tackle these, in particular to help build a stronger community of people committed to this agenda and to developing the evidence base about what works, including how civic engagement can animate student learning.”

Introducing Y-PERN Policy Fellow Pratichi Chatterjee

Dr Pratichi Chatterjee is Y-PERN Policy Fellow for West Yorkshire (based at the University of Huddersfield) and facilitates engagement between academics, policymakers and the community around housing in the region.

Pratichi is responsible for…

Delivering research and promoting community engagement on issues of homelessness and housing quality in West Yorkshire. In her role Pratichi will also support the development of more effective ways for academics and policymakers to work together.

Pratichi is most looking forward to…

Learning about the barriers to just housing outcomes in the region, and collaborating with local housing and health partnerships, academics and communities to work within these constraints, but hopefully also to challenge them.

Key areas of focus for Pratichi are…

homelessness among non-UK nationals, especially people seeking asylum. Specifically, in her role she will collaborate with the West Yorkshire Housing and Health Network to identify and evaluate realistic ways to support people at risk of homelessness.

Pratichi will also work on problems with social housing quality, especially those of damp and mould which social housing providers now have a duty to address, as per the Social Housing (Regulation) Act.  Her research will contribute to social landlords finding ways to better support tenants on such issues.

Pratichi joins us with a background in…

Human/Urban geography. Her past work has been on topics of housing development, displacement and homelessness. Prior to joining YPERN Pratichi worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds investigating the prefab house-building market in England, including the types of homes and places it is delivering.

In a previous role outside of academia, Pratichi has carried out research with the charity Crisis looking at the relationship between societal racism and homelessness.

Pratichi completed her PhD from the University of Sydney, Australia. Here her work focussed on the drivers and impacts of public housing redevelopment and infrastructure building, and the continuing influence of colonisation on such city-building processes.

Reflecting on the local elections: a Y-PERN perspective

Y-PERN’s Chief Policy Fellow, Dr Andy Mycock reflects on the mayoral and local election results in Yorkshire and the Humber and what it could mean for Y-PERN and YPIP’s ongoing mission.

The local and combined authority elections held across the Yorkshire and Humber region in May 2024 provide some important insights into how the political and electoral ‘tectonic plates’ shifted. The overall voting patterns across Yorkshire and Humber were largely similar to those across the rest of England. Labour’s share of the overall vote (about 35%) was similar to last year. The local elections gave us some indication of the likely outcomes in a general election, but the Blackpool South by-election was likely a more insightful indication of where the country stands in terms of national party politics. Below are some headline thoughts on our region: 

Mayoral Elections

The mayoral election in York and North Yorkshire (YNY) provided the headline result in the region, with David Skaith (Labour) beating Keane Duncan (Conservative) by almost 15,000 votes. Skaith’s campaign centred on local economic growth while not making any significant spending commitments. 

One significant point of note was the turnout of 191,279 (just under 30%) – higher than many expected and a positive sign of initial recognition and buy-in from voters for the new combined authority (and in line with most previous initial mayoral elections in England).

Skaith will seek to hit the ground running and will welcome the proactive approaches to pre-election engagement by our Y-PERN universities in supporting the YNY Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) transition team. Y-PERN will actively seek to develop existing relationships with YNY MCA officers and also the new mayor’s advisory team. 

The other two mayoral contests went as many expected – with Tracy Brabin and Oliver Coppard both winning comfortably. Comparisons with previous elections in terms of party support are somewhat difficult due the change in voting system to ‘first past the post’. Brabin received just over 50% of the vote share, as did Coppard (50.9%). Both mayors and officers in the Combined Authorities in South and West Yorkshire will likely be concerned about the somewhat poor turnouts in relatively mature Combined Authorities. While South Yorkshire turnout increased marginally from 2022 (26.4%) to 27%, West Yorkshire’s turnout dropped from 36.5% to 32%, a surprise considering local elections were held across the region on the same day.

Key Takeaways

The victorious Labour mayoral candidates all showed restraint in the policy remit of their manifestoes, largely resisting the temptation to speak to policy areas beyond their current delegated powers. Moreover, the focus of all the mayoral candidate manifestoes spoke strongly to the shared work of predominant Y-PERN and YPIP areas of interest (climate/sustainability, local economic growth and skills, transport, arts and culture). Furthermore, the shared focus of Y-PERN and YPIP on enhancing the reach and resonance of community engagement could help support future voter engagement with the Combined Authorities and turnout in elections.

Local Elections

As expected, Labour also had healthy returns in many of the local council elections across the region. It is interesting to note that support was not however as sizeable in terms of vote share (35%) as the 1996 local elections (43%) which preceded the 1997 general election. This in parts reflects that Labour has been in power in many local authorities across the Yorkshire and Humber region for some time and some of the issues concerning finances and governmental competency are viewed by the electorate to reside at local as well as national level.

Overall, Labour-led councils strengthened their hold on power, but with some notable exceptions. All five local authorities in West Yorkshire remained Labour-led, but the party lost overall control in Kirklees; they remain the largest party there but new Kirklees Labour party group leader, Carole Pattison, will need to work with other political parties to address significant fiscal challenges facing the council. They also lost some councillors in Bradford. However, this should not impact too strongly on any forthcoming general election as voting switches have taken place in wards where Labour has very strong existing support. 

In South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council remains in no overall control (NOC), with Labour still leading the council as the largest party. Barnsley and Rotherham also saw Labour make modest gains. Notable across West and South Yorkshire was some growth in the Green and Lib Dem vote and councillors, and the relative success of Reform UK where they took votes from all the main parties (though they didn’t stand candidates in many seats). 

In Hull, the Lib Dems fought off a strong Labour challenge to maintain control of the Council (Labour made a gain of one councillor). There were no elections in East Riding, but the other notable result was Labour taking the Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner post from the Conservatives (this has not been connected to the forthcoming mayoral role in Hull and East Riding MCA). The turnout was very low at 17%. There were no local elections in York and North Yorkshire.

Key Takeaways

The overarching messages is that the political landscape is both increasingly monochrome in one sense, as Labour is now in control of most local authorities across the region and the three mayoral roles. This will see some closer synchronisation of local and sub-regional policymaking in each of the three areas with a mayor. This noted, the political landscape remains complex and often influenced by a range of local, regional and national issues.

The Next Steps

Y-PERN and YPIP will continue to seek to support local and combined authorities across the region by listening and learning from our local and combined authority officer and elected representative colleagues. Our collective mission is to enhance cross-local and combined authority capacity and collaboration across the Yorkshire and Humber region. The emergence of the Policy Campus in Sheffield – which is part of a growing civil service footprint beyond Whitehall – is another significant opportunity for Y-PERN and YPIP to build multi-level policymaking capacity across the region.

Multi-level and cross-regional collaboration facilitated and supported by Y-PERN and YPIP will though need to adapt to the widening remit of our region’s Combined Authorities – particularly in the areas of local economic strategy and growth – as regional devolution deepens at a time of limited resources for some of local authorities. The forthcoming UK general election will also provide new challenges and opportunities for local and combined authorities, further highlighting the importance of collaboration with the region’s universities through Y-PERN and YPIP. 

Climate Talking Points on the agenda for Yorkshire and the Humber

In an election year in which climate policies are a key issue, the Yorkshire & Humber Climate Commission (a Y-PERN partner) is helping voters to cut through the noise.

Climate Talking Points calls for four key changes to national policy crucial for making real progress on climate and nature in Yorkshire and the Humber.

The world has just experienced its warmest February in modern times, and record temperature highs have been observed each month since June 2023. The first year-long breach of 1.5C warming was confirmed last month, and global sea surface temperatures hit their highest ever levels last year.

“We know there is not only consensus on what we need to do, but also plenty of evidence to support the policy changes. “

Rosa Foster, Director of YHCC

Evidence shows that people want action on climate. Without a change in national policy, Yorkshire and the UK are in danger of failing to meet climate targets and missing out on significant economic and social benefits.

“It’s imperative that we act fast, that we act now, and that everyone plays their part,” said Rosa Foster, Director of the Yorkshire & Humber Climate Commission (YHCC), which is an independent and politically neutral advisory body run by a secretariat at the University of Leeds.

“We work closely with organisations across all sectors, as well as with local authorities and local politicians in the Yorkshire and Humber region. We know there is not only consensus on what we need to do, but also plenty of evidence to support the policy changes. What’s needed now is for people on the doorstep to press for these and make sure the messages hit home.”

Crucially, YHCC is a key partner in the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Engagement and Research Network (Y-PERN). Y-PERN is bringing in expertise across a range of specialisms – climate, health, education, biodiversity etc – as well as communities and those with lived experiences, to inform local policy.

Regional action

The Climate Talking Points briefing, which will be presented at an online event on 13 March, states that rapid decarbonisation, prioritising nature, and building resilience are key issues – and that investment in these areas will create new jobs and business opportunities, lower energy bills, and bring down costs associated with poor health and climate impacts.

The Commission also says it is crucial to ensure that climate action reduces inequalities and helps people to pursue healthy, fulfilling lives.

Encouraging action is already taking place across Yorkshire and the Humber, with local and combined authorities investing in climate friendly measures such as the Leeds PIPES district heating network, and grants for reducing emissions aimed at small businesses in South Yorkshire. The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority has also run its own climate-themed citizens’ assembly.

In Hull, the Living with Water project is tackling adaptation to climate impacts, while the major industries around the Humber have big plans to get to net zero emissions, which are particularly important for the region’s role in global climate action.

And in York, the City of York Council, with partners on the Retrofit One Stop Shop York (ROSSY) project, has been awarded £3.37 million from Innovate UK to support, promote and encourage retrofitting work to homes across the city, helping residents to save money and to move the city towards net zero, while upskilling the sector with the latest techniques.

Cllr Claire Douglas, Leader of City of York Council and a YHCC vice-chair, said:

“Climate Talking Points provide the opportunity for wide-ranging debates about the existential challenge facing humankind as we look to the future. Not only do they provide regional government, campaigning and other organisations with a framework for what needs to happen, they provide guidance to national policy makers and Government in how to deliver the change required if we’re to halt the increasingly dangerous warming of our planet.

“I hope the public and decision makers will embrace Climate Talking Points and the direction they point us towards in delivering the economic, environmental and social benefits for Yorkshire and Humber of living in a cleaner world”.

Cllr Jack Hemingway, Deputy Leader of Wakefield Council and also a YHCC vice-chair, said:

“We are really proud to have three West Yorkshire authorities ranked A by CDP [Carbon Disclosure Project] for global leadership – but we know we need to go further and faster. The Climate Talking Points enable us to have that conversation.”

Cllr Paul West, Councillor for Wolds Weighton Ward and another YHCC vice-chair, said:

“As we enter spring in a few weeks’ time, we can all reflect on the turbulence that climate change has caused over the winter period. Displacing people, damaging ecosystems, creating uncertainty for millions of people. It is vitally important that we all play our part in reducing our impact on the planet. Through the work of the Yorkshire & Humber Climate Commission we can all add our voices to help shape our planet and region for generations to come.”

What policy changes are needed to unlock climate action across Yorkshire and the Humber?

In its Climate Talking Points briefing, the Commission has identified four key policy changes:

  1. Set out a clear pathway for reducing emissions and restoring nature and empower places to use local targets and go further and faster than national government if they wish.
  2. Create locally managed funding pots to allow key sectors to get on with acting, rather than wasting time competing and bidding for multiple, disjointed funding sources.
  3. Join up climate, skills and economy strategies to ensure they address the big challenges (poverty, ageing population, skills shortages and climate risks) together.
  4. Commit to a nature-first approach to infrastructure projects so that they can cope with future climate scenarios and nature is woven into all climate action.

Download the full Climate Talking Points here.

Making a difference on inclusive growth and sustainability: YPIP launches

Members of the YPIP team

Reflecting on the recent launch of the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Innovation Partnership (YPIP)funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the wider Local Policy Innovation Partnerships (LPIPs) programme to address regional inequalities around the UK.

Over the past decade, investment in university policy engagement has enhanced the capacity of researchers and institutions to deliver real benefits and growth for citizens and communities across the country. This has been achieved through the gathering of knowledge and insight to support policymaking as well as the cross-pollination of ideas and sharing of expertise between a range of public, private and community stakeholders at local, regional and national levels.

This significant investment in the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Innovation Partnership (YPIP) will further harness the power of research and innovation across our region. YPIP has adopted ‘communities in their places’ as its cross-cutting theme. This will involve building structures and processes that empower low-income, marginalised and geographically isolated communities across the region. Given this overarching focus, YPIP will undertake initiatives in three substantive areas.

“We want to make a difference on the inclusive growth and sustainability living challenges facing people across the region.”

Professor Gary Dymski, YPIP Principal Investigator

A stepwise approach to change

First, in laying the foundations for change, YPIP is currently working with local authorities, the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission (YHCC) and Yorkshire & Humber Policy Engagement & Research Network (Y-PERN) to create an integrated Data Informatics Hub for the region. YPIP will then develop the Yorkshire Engagement Portal as an ‘active’ platform for stakeholder engagement, especially from community members.

Second, with a focus on supporting inclusive growth, YPIP will adopt ‘What works’ inclusive business practices. This will be achieved through the creation of business partnerships and networks that can spread inclusive practices across the region. Support will also be provided for younger residents who are intent on building careers via the creative economy and entrepreneurship, using Bradford2025 ‘UK City of Culture’ as an entry point to develop region-wide inclusive networks. 

Members of the YPIP team at the LPIP launch in central London in February

Third, to support sustainable living, YPIP and YHCC will work together to identify cost-effective retrofit interventions for a range of places and building types, generating standards that can unlock net zero carbon and climate readiness measures. Place-based demonstrators of Net Zero initiatives will also be undertaken.

Collaborate to innovate

Overall, YPIP represents a concerted effort by a unique team of collaborating institutions, organizations, and individuals across Yorkshire and the Humber. Professor Gary Dymski of Leeds University Business School at the University of Leeds is the principal investigator and is working closely with YPIP co-director Kersten England, chair of Bradford2025, board chair of the Young Foundation and appointee of (as well as former executive director of) the Yorkshire and Humber Leaders Board.

Importantly, YPIP will bring together a team of 24 co-investigators (16 drawn from the 12 universities of Yorkshire and Humber region, four representing different local authorities, three representing community-based organizations and one representing the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission). They will use co-production, co-design, and co-delivery methods to mobilise the collaborative potential of our communities and businesses, thus enhancing our region’s voice, productivity and long-term capacity.

To oversee and advise on its activities, YPIP will also have a board of directors comprised of business, university, third-sector and community leaders. As well as Y-PERN and YHCC, other regional partner organisations working with YPIP include Yorkshire Universities, Yorkshire and Humber Councils, the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration Yorkshire and Humber and the Yorkshire Asian Business Association.

The national picture

YPIP’s activities got underway in January 2024 and will come to a close by December 2026. It will be funded by UKRI, with important contributions from the participating universities and other organizations. YPIP is one of four pilot Local Policy Innovation Partnerships (LPIPs) being initiated in the UK. In addition to YPIP, there are LPIP initiatives in each of the three devolved nations: Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. An LPIP Coordinating Hub, also funded by UKRI, is located at the University of Birmingham.

Commenting on the launch of YPIP, Principal Investigator, Professor Gary Dymski, commented: “All the members of our YPIP team are excited that we’ll have the opportunity to make a difference for the communities, councils and businesses of Yorkshire and the Humber.

“We are a vast region with a diverse population that resides in spaces ranging from remote rural hamlets to dense inner-city neighbourhoods. Our plan is ambitious: we want to make a difference on the inclusive growth and sustainability living challenges facing people across its length and breadth. YPIP gives our 12 Yorkshire universities some resources to use in this common effort.”

Key report sets out plan to tackle regional health inequalities

White Paper Cover

Devolving health powers and investment to local areas is key to tackling health and economic inequalities between Yorkshire and other parts of the UK, according to the findings of a new white paper.

The paper was delivered by Health Innovation Yorkshire & Humber, Yorkshire Universities and the NHS Confederation and lists 10 key recommendations to narrow the widening health and economic gap.

Chief among those recommendations is that central government should devolve more health powers to local places so that solutions can be found that meet the needs of local people and communities.

Notably, the report highlights the Yorkshire and Humber Policy Engagement and Research Network (Y-PERN) as an example of a Yorkshire-wide collaboration that is sharing evidence and best practice.

The report reads: “A cornerstone of Y-PERN … is bringing evidence-based rationale to influence policymaking for excluded and marginalised communities. The significance of this for health in the region is that it can act as an exemplar for how the extensive research facilities of Yorkshire Universities can be utilised by policymakers to improve health outcomes based on a proper understanding of the challenges faced, robust evidence and insights.”

A ’perfect test bed’ for innovation

The latest white paper, entitled Empowering Local Places for Health and Prosperity draws on data showing that health and economic inequalities across Yorkshire and Humber – which has the third lowest life expectancy in England – have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The white paper argues that meaningful devolution that allows local leaders to lead is the best way to tackle health inequalities and economic inactivity that currently cost the UK £180bn a year.

The paper highlights that Yorkshire’s diverse geography, economy and population and strong partnerships between public bodies, the health sector, universities, businesses, and others make it the “perfect test bed for piloting new approaches and innovations” that could be replicated and scaled up elsewhere in the country.

It also identifies the important role of universities and businesses in supporting health and economic prosperity as part of broad-based local partnerships.

As a region home to 37,000 students studying medicine or health-related subjects, Yorkshire’s universities are well-placed to meet ambitious targets set out in the NHS’s Long-Term Workforce Plan to double the number of medical school places in England and increasing adult nursing training places by 92%.

With NHS vacancies – particularly nursing jobs – at an all-time high, one of the white paper’s top recommendations is for health service leaders and the government to work more closely with universities to remove barriers to student recruitment in health-related subjects.

Professor Karen Bryan OBE, Chair of Yorkshire Universities, comments:

“Action to deliver on the NHS Workforce Plan ambitions has been slow to materialise, which is concerning given the scale of the workforce crisis the NHS is facing. I’m pleased that this white paper recognises the crucial role of universities in meeting the targets in the Workforce Plan, including boosting student recruitment, providing capital investment to improve training capacity, extending and diversifying placements and practice-learning, and tackling health student and early-career attrition.

“It also reinforces the importance of collaborative initiatives such our Yorkshire Policy Engagement and Research Network (Y-PERN), which unites our academics with policymakers and communities to ensure they are armed with evidence about what the economy and their communities really need to thrive.”

Read the full report here: https://www.yhealth4growth.info/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2024/02/Empowering_local_places.pdf 

Introducing Y-PERN Policy Fellow Juan Pablo Winter

Photo of Y-PERN policy fellow Juan Pablo Winter

Dr Juan Pablo Winter is Y-PERN Policy Fellow for Hull, East Yorkshire & the Humber, and facilitates academic policy and community engagement in the region.

Juan is responsible for…

Engaging community groups with academics and policymakers to drive sustainable transformations in the region. In so doing, Juan recognises and respects the ethics and responsibility of facilitating community engagement and building trust and long-term relationships with various stakeholders.

Juan’s most looking forward to…

Developing and facilitating academic policy and community engagement in Hull, East Yorkshire & the Humber and reflecting on how these relationships/initiatives can have broader, deeper, and lasting change. Ultimately, Juan looks forward to promoting a research culture that is more collaborative, needs-led and responsible.

Key areas of focus for Juan are…

Community projects addressing flood, water, and coastal erosion issues in Hull and East Riding. He is also working collaboratively with policymakers and people with lived experience in the Poverty Truth Commission, evaluating underlying issues that create poverty, and exploring creative ways of addressing them. Additionally, he is partnering with Voluntary, Community, and Social Enterprise (VCSE) stakeholders to assess their requirements concerning the integration of systems and services.

As part of his role, he has been actively involved in the IDEAS Fund. This project builds on relational engagement between researchers and communities. It aims to shift power and change university processes, narratives, and ethics towards a more inclusive and community-led approach to research.

Juan is also a representative of several Knowledge Exchange teams across the University of Hull, including the Knowledge Exchange Concordat Steering Group, the Public Engagement Task & Finish Group, and, most recently, the University Devolution Team that has been set up to engage with the devolution deal process in Hull and East Riding.

Juan joins us with a background in…

Political science, international development, and participatory action research. For the last 15 years, Juan has developed a career in public policy, community engagement and social change in Chile, South Africa, and the UK. Before joining Y-PERN, his last post was as a PDRA on an NHIR-funded research project on Adult Social Care in the UK. His role was to enhance collaboration and facilitate communities of practice between academics, practitioners, and people with lived experience.

Introducing Y-PERN Policy Fellow Neil Barnett – Yorkshire & the Humber

Neil Barnett is Y-PERN Policy Fellow for Yorkshire & Humber Councils, helping local policy-makers negotiate an increasingly complex set of governing arrangements around the devolution agenda.

As the Y-PERN Policy Fellow for the Yorkshire & Humber Councils, Neil is responsible for…

Research into governance arrangements in the region and issues around the devolution agenda. Neil is liaising between the  local governments, Combined Authorities and other public agencies in the region and the Y-PERN network to identify on-going research needs, particularly as new governance structures come into being and develop.

Neil’s most looking forward to…

Helping local policy-makers as they negotiate an increasingly complex set of governing arrangements and an ever more acute set of demands for public service delivery. This will be a process of mutual learning in an evolving landscape, so he’s also looking forward to seeing how the relationship develops between academics and policy makers, and how Y-PERN can help to establish a model for ‘feeding in’ research to the policy cycle.

Key areas of focus for Neil are…

The devolution agenda, with the established and newly created Combined Authorities developing patterns of working and collaboration with the local governments and other stakeholders in a environment of multi-level governance.  Initially, this has involved him collating international evidence re devolution and decentralisation, and a key area of focus will be on how these trends play out in our particular places – the region, sub-regions, cities, towns and neighbourhoods. In addition, councils continue to grapple with the consequences of austerity and budget-tightening, necessitating that this be conducted against the background of ensuring that organisational arrangements are focussed on effective delivery of public services.

Neil joins us with a background in…

Politics and public management. Neil was a local government officer before moving to (the then named) Leeds Metropolitan University as a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy. He has developed and led management development programmes, delivered in-house to councils in the region, including Leeds, Kirklees, Rotherham and North East Lincolnshire, and taught and delivered on a range of undergraduate and post graduate programmes. He’s authored and co-authored articles in a range of Journals, including Local Government Studies, Political Studies, and Environment and Planning (C) and a series of research reports for the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE).

The Final Piece Of The Devolution Jigsaw – Hull & East Yorkshire

Dr Peter O’Brien, YU Executive Director

Last Wednesday’s Autumn Statement saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, and the Treasury, publish a raft of documents that introduced new interventions designed to boost growth, or to report on complex policy challenges where the Government had commissioned research to investigate or had sought external advice.

One of the most noticeable features of the Autumn Statement was the publication of an updated Devolution Framework, and, for those of us who keep a close eye on events in Yorkshire, the announcement of a new Level 3 Devolution Deal for Hull and East Yorkshire. In addition, twenty-four hours ahead of the fiscal event, an order to form a Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) in York and North Yorkshire was presented to Parliament.

Subject to local consultations, led by Hull City Council and the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, as well as parliamentary approval, the prospect of four MCAs being established – covering the North, South, East and West parts of the White Rose County – heralds the arrival of a fundamental stage in Yorkshire’s devolutionary journey that has been years in the making. The framework for ‘Level 4’ Devolution Deals sets out how MCAs and Mayors can apply for devolved powers over adult skills, local transport, and housing and regeneration, similar to those negotiated in the first trailblazer agreements with Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. Significantly, the Government confirms its intention to roll out single department-style settlements to all areas in England with a Devolution Deal, thus attempting to negate a long-standing critique that too much funding allocated to MCAs has been fragmented and piecemeal. In other policy areas, however, some of the proposed measures under the Level 4 Framework remain limited. For example, in education and skills, the Department for Education offers only a commitment to “consider the future role of eligible institutions in the delivery of LSIPs and the Local Skills Improvement Fund.” Whilst the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), pledge to “consult elected mayoral authorities on the development of relevant future research and innovation strategies”. UKRI will also publish regional data on its investments. Actions you might reasonably think would be undertaken already.

Responding to the news that the ‘yet to be formed’ North East MCA is about to enter negotiations for a trailblazer deal, to be concluded by spring 2024, the Yorkshire Post called on the Mayors of South and West Yorkshire to waste little time in applying for more powers and funding, but, at the same time, counselling that, “it is critical that the Mayors display a deft touch when it comes to diplomacy. They need to engage all stakeholders in a meaningful way and show that it is about collaboration and bringing everyone in the region along on the journey”. A further (welcome) illustration of the support for MCAs and Mayors to work together appears on page 10 of the Hull and East Yorkshire Devolution Deal, where the Hull and East Yorkshire MCA is encouraged to explore opportunities for further collaboration with neighbouring MCAs, and “across the whole of Yorkshire through the Yorkshire Leaders Board”. Yorkshire Universities (YU) welcomes wider and deeper devolution within and across all parts of Yorkshire. Equally, we support all Mayors in the region working together, where possible, on shared priorities and forming coalitions with each other, and with other places, on areas of mutual concern. YU stands ready to support, and to facilitate, any collaborations that our member institutions have a particular interest in forging, and where higher education has a unique contribution to make. There are some fantastic examples of Yorkshire’s universities leading, with public sector organisations and business, projects and programmes that support research and innovation, enterprise, entrepreneurship, skills, regeneration, high value sectors, and inward investment and trade. Devolution could help to accelerate and strengthen these partnerships.

Recent developments (re)confirm that the deal-making approach to devolution, and to local and regional development, is an incremental process that tests the capacity and capabilities of Whitehall and local policymakers. The arrival of the Devolution Framework, intended to guide regions on the application process for seeking new powers and funding, is a welcome step forward, and it reflects earlier calls for the development of a clearer roadmap for decentralisation in England. Yet the finances of local government – the sector that is vital to making devolution a long-term success – remain fragile, and the Autumn Statement has done little to alleviate existing budgetary pressures. According to local authority leaders, the funding squeeze is expected to increase, and it threatens to undermine efforts to boost growth in places and communities that, more than ever, need to experience and to share more in the proceeds of greater prosperity. The real risk is that what is given with one hand, is being taken away by the other…