Devolution plan ‘risks North Yorkshire split’

Carl Les
Carl Les
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NORTH Yorkshire could be split in two by a devolution plan that risks leaving rural areas behind, according to a council leader.

Coun Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, expressed disappointment at a proposal which would see West Yorkshire team up with three North Yorkshire districts and York to bid for greater control over their own affairs.

The invitation from West Yorkshire councils was extended to York, Harrogate, Selby and Craven last week.

Talks had previously taken place over a single proposal, known as the ‘Greater Yorkshire’ plan, which would have seen a single bid submitted by West and North Yorkshire, East Riding and perhaps Hull.

But West Yorkshire’s five authorities have now indicated their preference is to partner with their immediate neighbours or to go it alone.

Coun Les said: “I am disappointed they are doing this. It misses the opportunity offered by the Greater Yorkshire idea.

“My specific concern is that it splits North Yorkshire into two parts - those with devolution and those that might have it.

“I think it ignores the rural economy and I think it ignores East Yorkshire.”

Councils asked to join West Yorkshire bid for devolution

Coun Les said the county council was still supporting the Greater Yorkshire idea. Work is underway on a North and East Yorkshire proposal which could be submitted on its own or as part of a Greater Yorkshire bid.

George Osborne has offered areas the chance to have a much bigger say in areas like transport, economic development and skills and asked for initial bids to be submitted by September 4.

He has also stressed that areas wanting devolved powers will have to adopted elected mayors.

South Yorkshire councils are expected to submit a bid in partnership with their north Derbyshire and north Nottinghamshire neighbours.

York, Harrogate, Craven and Selby now face a choice over where their future lies.

Craven Council leader Richard Foster said he was still in favour of the Greater Yorkshire idea.

“We do have close links with West Yorkshire, there’s no two ways abouts it. Rail services, major roads, our main links are with West Yorkshire and Lancashire so we don’t want to be completely out of any deal West Yorkshire has.”

Coun Foster said a tie-up with West Yorkshire would raise questions in areas such as the fire service and police which operate on a North Yorkshire-wide basis.

He also played down suggestions that councils will have to take a final decision by the Government’s deadline next week and suggested further discussions would take place before Mr Osborne announces completed devolution deals in November.

Big Debate: Yorkshire at a crossroads over its devolution ambitions

As part of its Big Debate series, The Yorkshire Post will host an event on September 17 where readers will have the chance to hear key figures in the devolution debate discuss the region’s future and ask questions.

Humber Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Lord Haskins, Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, Andrew Carter from the Centre for Cities thinktank and Wakefield Council leader Peter Box are due to take part.

If you would like to attend please email jayne.lownsbrough@jpress.co.uk. Please also suggest a question you would like to ask.