August 22: Is this the best devolution deal? Yorkshire’s needs must come first

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SHOULD LEEDS, as Yorkshire’s biggest city, hold so much sway over the county’s future?

This is the question that goes to the heart of a proposed devolved deal which would see Leeds, and neighbouring authorities in West Yorkshire, join forces with councils in Harrogate, Craven, Selby and York to implement new policy powers.

With local government leaders in Sheffield and South Yorkshire now seemingly intent on teaming up with authorities in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire – they believe the three areas have sufficient common ground – it threatens to scupper those who believe that 
the whole county needs to pool its prestige and expertise to prevent rival regions, like Greater Manchester, stealing a march when it comes to economic growth.

This is a critical point. The final plan must be in the best interests of the whole of Yorkshire, not just individual cities, and this proposal has at least three major flaws. First, how will councils in the new grouping, which equates to the Leeds travel-to-work area, make best use of the powers being offered by George Osborne if they’re still uncommitted to the advent of a directly-elected metro mayor? The Chancellor’s position on this remains non-negotiable.

Second, what will happen to North Yorkshire’s more rural councils – and Hull and the East Riding for 
that matter? Do they now not matter?

Third, what are the implications for police and crime commissioners? The assumption is these posts will , in time, be superseded by elected mayors but what will happen in those areas where the new regional government structure does not correlate with the boundaries of individual constabularies. These issues, and many more, must not be ignored. And that is before the council chiefs concerned begin the hardest job of all – selling their plan to both the Government and, most critically of all, local taxpayers. They already have their work cut out.

Labour’s wars: Iraq returns to haunt party

YOU could not make it up. Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to apologise for the Iraq war was followed by leadership rival Andy Burnham calling for crisis talks amid the claims that Labour’s rank and file membership had been infiltrated by the party’s opponents because Ed Miliband had not put sufficient safeguards in place.

It remains to be seen whether Labour accede to Mr Burnham’s demand – or whether this proves to be a desperate attempt to halt the contest because of Mr Corbyn’s ability to seize the moment and recognise the public’s anguish over the Iraq invasion, and which was supported by the Shadow Health Secretary amongst others.

However Labour’s civil war must not detract from a wider grievance; namely the continuing delays to the publication of Sir John Chilcot’s much-awaited inquiry into Iraq and the culpability, or otherwise, of not only Tony Blair’s government but senior military figures like Otley-born General Sir Nicholas Houghton.

Commissioned at great expense in 2009, it defies belief that Britain – and, specifically, the families of those members of the Armed Forces killed in the line of duty – still do not know whether the decision-making processes undertaken by the Blair government were in the national interest or not. As such, Labour’s leadership ruminations must not stand in the way of the need to publish Chilcot in full as a matter of urgency.

Bowled over: exercise in bleedin’ obvious

IT’S JUST not cricket, is it? One can only imagine the late great Frederick Sewards Trueman’s reaction to a study by academics at Leeds Beckett University on the physical attributes required to be a successful fast bowler. Not only would he question the researcher’s actual qualifications – Trueman was the first man to reach the pinnacle of 300 Test wickets – and the value of an exercise in the bleedin’ obvious at a supposed centre of learning, but he’d also be furious that the secrets of his success might also be divulged to his old foes in Australia.

And the research also fails to take account of the sheer number of players who gave their wicket away because they were intimidated by the pipe-smoking Yorkshireman who wanted his biography entitled ‘T’Greatest Fast Bowler Who Ever Drew Breath’. He actually had the chtuzpah go into the opposition changing room prior to play and announce which batsmen would make up his five-wicket haul later in the day. England might have regained the Ashes this summer, but today’s fast bowlers do not have the presence or personality of players like Fred Trueman.

More’s the pity.

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