August 26: Support is key to devolution deal

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GEORGE OSBORNE should not be too disheartened by the lack of unanimity in Yorkshire over devolution – and how England’s largest, and most important, county, should maximise the spending powers that the Chancellor is prepared to relinquish as part of the Government’s desire to empower the North. The priority is ensuring that the best decision is reached.

Unlike Greater Manchester where decisions gravitate towards Manchester and where local authority leaders have agreed a joint approach, the contrasts between this county’s city, coastal and rural communities could not be greater, both in terms of geography and the economic challenges.

This is borne out by the contentious plan of West Yorkshire council leaders to team up with their counterparts in Selby, Harrogate, York and Craven, effectively leaving the rest of North and East Yorkshire to its own devices while local authorities in South Yorkshire contemplate an alliance with their counterparts in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. It remains to be seen if the region’s future interests are best served by carving the county into three or whether such an arrangement would actually undermine the county’s greatest asset – the priceless Yorkshire brand – when it comes to securing jobs and investment.

In this regard, Mr Osborne is right to put the onus on Yorkshire’s political and business leaders to come up with a plan – they are the individuals who will be tasked with implementing new powers on transport, skills and so on. But it is also vital that the current debate does not lose sight of the views of local taxpayers. For, unless the final framework commands the confidence of the people who pay the bills, it will struggle to fulfil its primary remit; namely the creation of a world-class infrastructure which increases the county’s reputation as the place in Britain to do business.

A lonely struggle

Helping mothers left on their own

IT is testament to this newspaper’s continuing campaign on loneliness that doctors, and other agencies for that matter, have a far greater awareness about the plight of those senior citizens who live in isolation – and how they will become a greater burden to the NHS unless they meet with others or can be persuaded to take part in social activities. Yet it would be remiss to stereotype the lonely as those elderly residents who have suffered a bereavement and can no longer count on the support of their family because their children and grandchildren have moved many miles away and lead hectic lives of their own.

As a new study reveals, changing lifestyles means that loneliness can afflict all sections of society – including the mothers of new-born babies. Unlike previous generations, they are no longer assurance of the practical support of grandparents – and relatives – because the family circle has become more fragmented. It is not helped by a tendency for some to communicate solely via social media rather than attending, for example, mother and baby groups to share experiences and problems.

It would be wrong to apportion blame. This is down to a combination of circumstances that has led to the gradual erosion of neighbourliness, a once cherished value now superseded by a growing number of families who lead totally independent lives. Now that Action for Children have highlighted the issue, and the support networks that are available, it is important that services are utilised. They exist for a reason, namely a desire to enable parents bring up their babies in a loving environment.

The right note

Dame Fanny’s festival farewell

IN a celebrity-dominated age when manufactured pop stars come and go seemingly in the blink of an eye, the return of the Leeds International Piano Competition is a welcome sight, and sound. The “Leeds”, as it is affectionately known, gets underway again this morning as 79 of the world’s best young concert pianists battle it out for the top prize.

It has taken years of practice, skill and dedication for these gifted young men and women to reach this level of performance. Compare that to the fickle world of reality TV shows and the “15 minutes of fame” enjoyed by contestants.

The Leeds International Piano Competition is a byword for excellence and orchestrating it all for the past 52 years has been the indefatigable Dame Fanny Waterman. Not only has

she established Leeds as a world-renowned venue for classical music, but she has helped launch the careers of some of our greatest concert pianists. Dame Fanny, we salute you.