Bernard Ginns: Yorkshire is yearning for a great idea

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THE best line from our business awards came at the end of the night from Terry Bramall, who picked up the individual award for excellence with his wife Liz.

Asked about the future of Yorkshire, the philanthropist told the audience that God’s Own Country - not County - has a great opportunity following on from the Scottish independence referendum and Chancellor George Osborne’s drive for devolution.

He said: “I think Yorkshire is also yearning for a great idea and I hope that the politicians can actually put their differences aside and recognise the opportunity but they have got to get mature, they have got to realise that we can work together and we can be an entity and make a big difference and certainly doing it through young people, education and all the right things, looking after employees, raising living standards and giving opportunity and there is so much good work going out there, let’s get together and make it happen.

“We have seen some good stuff tonight, very exciting stuff, this should only be the beginning, let’s make the cake bigger, never mind who’s going to share the cake, let’s just make it bigger and then everybody does benefit.”

Mr and Mrs Bramall received the award in recognition of their significant track record in philanthropy following the sale of their family business, the housing and regeneration specialist Keepmoat, for £786m in 2007.

The day after The Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Awards took place a press release arrived from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

It stated that council and business leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to pursuing a devolution deal with Government for the Leeds City Region – a geography that covers all of West Yorkshire along with York and the North Yorkshire districts of Harrogate, Craven and Selby.

Councillor Peter Box, leader of Wakefield council and chairman of the combined authority, said the economic evidence demonstrates overwhelmingly that the city region – as the economic heart of Yorkshire – is the right geography to deliver on the “huge ambitions” to transform the economy for the benefit of millions of local people.

Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said there is a very strong track record of effective partnership working between councils and businesses at the city region level over the past 10 years. “We are already proving that devolution to this level works,” she added.

Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “I’ve always been clear that the purpose of devolution is not to create new governance structures, it’s to create better economic outcomes for our city region and its citizens.”

At the current rate, Yorkshire could end up split into three or four different economic entities in the ongoing talks to devolve powers from Whitehall to the region. Won’t that make the region weaker rather than stronger?

Yorkshire is yearning for a great idea, as Mr Bramall suggests, and I’m not sure the city region proposals fit the bill. I fear they are too small and fail to offer the scale that Yorkshire will need to be able to compete for resources against the likes of Manchester and Scotland in the years ahead.

Back to the subject of the individual award. We have had some superb winners over the years and the presentation at the end of the ceremony has become my personal highlight of the year (once I got over the stagefright of interviewing a business leader before an audience of several hundred).

Winners from 2008 onwards include Sir Ken Morrison, Victor Watson CBE, Sir Stuart now Lord Rose, Kevin Whiteman, James Lambert OBE, Stephen Hester, Sir Gary Verity and now Liz and Terry Bramall CBE.

This list serves as a great reminder of the excellent business talent that Yorkshire has produced over the decades.