Commons address to push for talks on ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution

Will there be a devolution deal for the whole of Yorkshire?
Will there be a devolution deal for the whole of Yorkshire?
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The case for a so-called ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution deal will be made in the Commons this week in an attempt to convince government to open talks with council leaders.

Keighley’s Labour MP John Grogan has secured a debate to discuss Yorkshire devolution on Tuesday but the Department for Communities and Local Government last night reiterated that Ministers would not consider a deal for the whole of Yorkshire.

John Grogan MP for Keighley.   Picture by Tony Johnson.

John Grogan MP for Keighley. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Mr Grogan told The Yorkshire Post that he hoped Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry would consider talks after the Sheffield City Region deal was effectively scrapped at a meeting of South Yorkshire council leaders three weeks ago.

Mr Grogan, secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Yorkshire Group, said: “It has been a couple of weeks since South Yorkshire pulled out so I hope that we can now discuss and move on a bit.”

Seventeen Yorkshire civic leaders met in August when a new “coalition of the willing” was formed to call for a single Yorkshire devolution deal.

Mr Grogan said: “We hope now that there would be something the government would be prepared to start discussing. If not, why not exactly?”

Writing in The Yorkshire Post in July, Mr Berry had already stated there would not be a “full Yorkshire” devolution deal.

And the statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government issued to The Yorkshire Post last night suggested that not even the collapse of the Sheffield City Region deal is enough to convince Ministers to have a change of heart.

A spokesman for the Department said: “It is very disappointing that South Yorkshire councils have pulled away from their devolution deal, which would see the area benefit from around £1bn of new government investment.

“We remain ready and willing to work with local leaders to implement the deal and have no intention to undo the legislation that has already been enacted in Parliament, including legislation for a mayoral election in May 2018.

“We’ve been absolutely clear that we will not consider a deal for the whole of Yorkshire.”

The South Yorkshire deal has been beset by problems since four councils signed an agreement with then Chancellor George Osborne two years ago, which offered £30m a year in extra funding and a transfer of powers from Whitehall to a new elected mayor.

But a mayor has never been elected and over the summer Barnsley and Doncaster joined 15 other council leaders from across the region to back an alternative proposal for a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal - known as One Yorkshire.

Sheffield and Rotherham have continued to back the Sheffield City Region deal but without the full support of the Sheffield City Region, South Yorkshire will see a mayor elected next May with few powers, without the £30m a year promised under the terms of the deal and in an election that is expected to cost taxpayers’ £1m.

The official line from government on a single Yorkshire devolution deal seemed to jar with the diplomatic tone taken by Chancellor Philip Hammond when he discussed Yorkshire devolution on a visit to Leeds only last month.

Addressing the One Yorkshire proposal, Mr Hammond told The Yorkshire Post: “Obviously if something is put forward to us we will look at it and the system is flexible enough to have different approaches in different regions.

“The short answer is, we definitely need Leeds and Sheffield at the table.”