YORKSHIRE’s politicians must put aside their differences and agree a devolution deal to stop the region falling behind other parts of Britain, according to the boss of one of Yorkshire’s fastest growing companies.
Richard Flint, the chief executive of Sky Betting & Gaming, has become the latest senior business figure to express frustration at the lack of progress on a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal.
Mr Flint, whose company has doubled its headcount from 600 to 1,200 over the last two years, said he wanted to see a devolution deal agreed for Yorkshire that would lead to improvements in skills, transport and housing.
He made the comments at the launch of The Yorkshire Report 2017, an analysis of the fortunes of the region’s 200 mid-market companies, which has been compiled by professional services firm BDO.
During his speech at BDO’s Leeds office, Mr Flint said: “We are blessed to have so many good universities and so many graduates who come here. One of the challenges for the city historically has been keeping those people here, instead of them going off, particularly to London and potentially to Manchester as well.
“We see ourselves as playing a part in that. We’re investing heavily in graduate training and graduate jobs.”
He added: “It’s been a great region for us. However, it can be improved. There are a few aspects of Government support we are strongly in favour of.
“We certainly favour devolution. We think having a local mayor of some kind, looking over some part of the region, particularly one that oversaw transport and skills spending, would help us accelerate in those areas which are so important.
“We think, like many of you, that east to west transport, and transport across the North is more of a priority than North-South transport, so we’re certainly supportive of that.
“We’re supportive of any initiatives that bring more digital talent from schools upwards. It will help us train more senior digital talent.”
Speaking afterwards, Mr Flint said that Yorkshire had to recognise that it is competing with other UK regions. He warned that it may not be as competitive as regions that have mayors if it fails to agree a devolution deal.
He added: “We’ve got 100 vacancies in Yorkshire at the moment. Highly technical programmers and digital marketing and product people are the hardest to come by.
“There are some in the area, (and) we try to recruit locally, we try to train our own, but we’re also focusing more and more on bringing people into the region from elsewhere in the UK and further afield.
Mr Flint continued: “I think we can do a better job of promoting our region.”
He said organisations like Welcome to Yorkshire and cycling events like the Tour de Yorkshire all help to highlight the region’s beauty.
He added: “We can probably collectively do a better job at selling it as a great place to work, rather than just a great place to live or to visit.”
Sky Betting & Gaming recently announced that it was creating 114 jobs at the company’s headquarters in Leeds and a tech hub located in Sheffield.
The firm is one of two Yorkshire-based tech firms classed as “unicorns”; companies assessed as having a value in excess of $1bn.
A recent study from Oxford Economics valued its contribution to the Leeds economy as being £143m.
A total of 90 per cent of Sky Bet’s headcount is based in Yorkshire.
Since becoming independent, its overall revenue has more than doubled from £183m at the end of the 2014 financial year to £374m at year-end 2016.
The company is now expanding into European markets.
It has recently launched in Italy, and it is planning an entry into the German market later this year.