Big Debate: Where next for devolution to Yorkshire?

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THE PROSPECT of Yorkshire having multiple elected mayors has been described as a “nightmare scenario” by one of the region’s council leaders.

Stephen Brady, Hull City Council’s leader, voiced his concerns at The Yorkshire Post’s Big Debate event considering how the region should respond to the Government’s offer to give it more powers over its own affairs in return for adopting elected mayors.

Coun Peter Box speaks at The Yorkshire Post's Big Debate event

Coun Peter Box speaks at The Yorkshire Post's Big Debate event

Five different proposals for areas of Yorkshire which could be covered by devolution deals have been presented to ministers.

Coun Brady, a supporter of the broad ‘Greater Yorkshire’ plan involving a single devolution deal for West, North and East Yorkshire, said: “The nightmare scenario for me is three or four elected mayors across Yorkshire being played off one against the other.”

But Andrew Carter, acting chief executive of the Centre for Cities thinktank, warned devolved areas could be too big as well as too small.

He said: “You are going to have to make decisions about where you prioritise investment of scarce resource.”

He continued: “And if you have a large area where investment in one part doesn’t really benefit other parts of your area you get quite tough decisions and you get a lot of resistance to it.”

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake warned that “bureaucratic” considerations were in danger of getting in the way of “serious conversations” about how the North grows as a whole.

She said: “It is a nonsense to think we have to limit ourselves to such a small area. Ultimately the North has immense strength and I think that is the conversation that needs to come through beyond all the conversations about mayoral footprints.”

West Yorkshire Combined Authority chairman Peter Box said his favoured proposal - grouping West Yorkshire with four North Yorkshire neighbours - was focused on economic growth.

He said: “This is about economic entity not creating something that doesn’t exist. Two arguments are being conflated. The first is how do we grow our distinct economies within Yorkshire and the second is what kind of governance do we want in the future?”

Yorkshire MEP Timothy Kirkhope said devolution needed to unite urban and rural areas.

Mr Kirkhope, a Greater Yorkshire supporter, said: “If [devolution] is going to work it doesn’t matter what level it is, it has to be cross-party. I think you’ve got much better chance of getting much more balance, political balance as well as economic balance, if you have the concept we have.”

Humber LEP chairman Lord Haskins, offering his personal views, said the Government would hang on to key powers unless a deal was done on a Yorkshire-wide scale and the current bids were “mediocre”.

“The Government wants them to demonstrate this is really going to change things, it seems to me people are arguing about who sits where.”