Analysis: Where do latest devolution deals leave Yorkshire?

George Osborne signs the Sheffield City Region devolution deal earlier this year
George Osborne signs the Sheffield City Region devolution deal earlier this year
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The announcement this morning that Merseyside and the West Midlands have become the latest areas to agree devolution deals with George Osborne leaves West, North and East Yorkshire in an interesting position.

With the North-East, Tees Valley, South Yorkshire (as part of Sheffield City Region) and Manchester already having signed on the dotted line, they are now the only parts of the Chancellor’s ‘northern powerhouse’ which have yet to set out how they will take more control over their own affairs.

Despite a recent meeting between the key regional figures and Ministers there has been no significant progress over the central stumbling block - what is known in local government as “the geography”.

West Yorkshire council leaders remain committed to an area covering their own authorities and neighbours Craven, Harrogate, Selby and York known as the Leeds City Region.

North Yorkshire County Council, East Riding Council and many West Yorkshire Conservative MPs are pushing for a Greater Yorkshire plan covering the whole of the West, North and East Yorkshire.

So far, Mr Osborne and his ministerial colleagues have refused to play the role of referee, insisting a local solution must be found.

But with Yorkshire now the only blemish in his northern powerhouse vision, he will be tempted to start twisting arms. And he will now have the advantage in PR terms.

While Yorkshire politicians in both camps have valid arguments to make, they are complex and hard to distil into crisp soundbites.

In sharp contrast, Mr Osborne can present his position simply: “I’ve struck devolution deals across the North, bridged the political divide to reach agreement with Labour council leaders from Liverpool to Newcastle, so what’s wrong with Yorkshire?”

However, there is little sign of panic among local politicians involved in the devolution discussions. There is talk of red lines and a willingness among many to hold out for a deal that delivers in the long term.

Some have even hinted at a readiness to walk away from the whole process.

The revelation that Hull has made overtures about joining the West Yorkshire Combined Authority may be a sign that there could be movement from previously entrenched positions.

But there is little expectation that the string of deals struck elsewhere will trigger a fundamental shift here.

Hull approaches West Yorkshire over combined authority membership