Business leaders reject Yorkshire mayor proposals

George Osbourne
George Osbourne
1
Have your say

Business leaders have warned a single Yorkshire-wide elected mayor is “unmanageable”.

While the business community accepts elected mayors could be the key to devolution, industry figures said a single mayor for Yorkshire would fail to represent the county’s diverse economies.

Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dr Ian Kelly told The Yorkshire Post: “When it comes to cricket, Yorkshire is great as a brand, and when it comes to tourism, Yorkshire’s quite good too.

“But Yorkshire de facto already operates as four city/sub regions.

“Given Yorkshire itself is the size of a small European country, that diversity is not easily captured at a single Yorkshire county-wide level.”

Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce head of policy Steven Leigh said: “Leeds City Region is big enough. If you extend it to the whole of Yorkshire, it’s too big and unmanageable.”

Businesses have expressed concerns an elected mayor could be another layer of “expensive and inefficient” government, Mr Leigh said.

“Businesses do not want extra bureaucracy, but we do want to have more control of our own affairs and devolved powers and funding,” he added.

His view was backed by George Kilburn, chief executive at Company of Cutlers, who said any future mayor must be “business friendly”. He said: “They must be focused on growing the economy and building wealth overall and not simply become another layer of bureaucracy.”

Any additional funds an elected mayor has access to “must be used for growth”, he added.

Chancellor George Osborne has awarded wide-reaching powers on transport, housing and health to Greater Manchester since it agreed to install a metropolitan mayor in November 2014.

Mr Osborne repeated his promise of greater local powers for cities and regions who adopt the same governance structure following the Conservative’s General Election win in May.

Mr Leigh said Yorkshire must learn from Manchester’s progress. However, he added: “Businesses ought to be more than consulted, they need to be involved in the decision making.”

“This is serious. It’s all about the future for our region.”

Of Yorkshire’s four Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), only Sheffield City Region would comment on its position.

Sir Stephen Houghton said the City Region is working hard to negotiate its settlement with Government.

“We’re engaging business and they’re part of the decision-making process,” he said.

While there is a preference not to adopt a mayoral system in the City Region, the Barnsley MP said it would be favoured over a single mayor for Yorkshire.

PwC partner Jonathan House said Mr Osborne’s insistence on a metro mayor could undermine the local strengths devolution hopes to capitalise on.

He said: “If everything has to follow a certain template, this is going to be a risk to the potential opportunities of these cities.”

Property entrepreneur Peter Connolly urged Yorkshire, and Leeds City Region in particular, to not get hemmed in by process.

He said: “Opportunities to transfer power back to Yorkshire could be lost.

“Given that Leeds is the economic powerhouse of Yorkshire then we need to lead.

“Devolution is about economic growth and jobs. If its not its a waste of time.

“We don’t need talks about talks about structure. Start making decisions for Yorkshire in Yorkshire and show Whitehall we can run the shop.”

--

A Yorkshire would result in a “Yorkshire tax”, Sir Stephen Houghton has warned.

The Sheffield City Region LEP board member said a Yorkshire mayor would fail to improve local democracy, grow the region’s diverse economic areas or support public service reform.

It would also prove costly at a time of decreasing budgets, he said. Advocates of a Yorkshire-wide mayor have proposed a levy on councils to fund activities, Sir Stephen said.

“A Yorkshire mayor brings a Yorkshire tax. “That would make Yorkshire one of the most taxed places in the country,” he said.

However, a region-wide mayor would effectively boost the region’s profile, he added.