YORKSHIRE should be putting forward “radical” plans to take greater control over its own affairs, according to a senior Minister.
Greg Clark said the country needed a thriving Yorkshire which could be delivered if the region takes advantage of the Government’s promise to devolve significant powers to areas which agree to adopt elected mayors.
Discussions are underway across the region over what powers should be requested and where they should cover, including the suggestion there could be a single mayor for Yorkshire.
Yorkshire council leaders have been holding talks with Mr Clark in the margins of the Local Government Association conference in Harrogate this week.
Mr Clark told The Yorkshire Post there had been “good and cordial discussions” which were “making progress” on devolution plans.
And he insisted he would not act as a referee between competing visions over how Yorkshire should manage its affairs in future.
“It’s the opposite of the whole intention of the exercise to have a Minister in London deciding what the arrangements will be in Yorkshire,” he said.
But the Local Government Secretary stressed he wanted Yorkshire to be at the front of the queue when it comes to agreeing a devolution deal with the Government.
“For the national economy to succeed Yorkshire has to be firing on all cylinders and you absolutely need, it seems to me, to have the dynamism that’s here in the area to be reflected.
“There’s a big opportunity and for Yorkshire to be in the slow lane of this would be unthinkable for the area so I really want to work with them and help them come up with something we can enthusiastically endorse.”
Manchester struck a deal last year involving wide-ranging powers over housing, transport, planning and health and social care and Mr Clark suggested Yorkshire should be aiming for something similar.
He said: “A trivial set of proposals in Yorkshire is not going to be good enough, this needs to be really radical to take advantage of the window of opportunity that I think everyone acknowledges we have across the parties to do something very ambitious.”
Mr Clark also rejected suggestions that the Government’s enthusiasm for devolution is motivated by a desire to delegate the unpopular decisions connected to public spending cuts.
“I have never disguised the fact that there are savings that will continue to need to be made, it would have happened whoever had been in govern ment at the moment.
“But it seems to me if you are going to have those difficult decisions that are going to be about how you can shape services locally, I think far better to have people on the ground who know how they can be best managed to be most effective rather than damaging, far better to have them as part of the conversation,”
In a joint statement today, senior Yorkshire Conservative councillors today called for any devolution settlement to recognise “the identity of Yorkshire as a whole”.
North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les said: “We recognise fully the economic powerhouse that is West Yorkshire, but our ambition for the benefit of all our residents must go far beyond that.”
“Ministers are describing this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and are challenging local government to produce bids to demonstrate that they can step up to meet that challenge to take more local control of decision making.
“We believe we can meet that challenge as a greater Yorkshire”.