Devolution warning as Hammond holds mayor talks

Chancellor Philip Hammond will meet North metro-mayors today
Chancellor Philip Hammond will meet North metro-mayors today
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DEVOLUTION ‘DEADLOCK’ is costing the economy billions, it is claimed today, as the Chancellor holds his first summit with Northern Powerhouse metro-mayors.

Philip Hammond will discuss how to raise productivity across the North when he holds talks with the metro-mayors of Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Tees Valley.

But the ongoing wrangle over Yorkshire’s devolution plans means this region will not be represented in the discussions with the Chancellor.

Manchester, Liverpool and the Tees Valley elected new metro-mayors in May after agreeing devolution deals with the Government to take more control over their own affairs.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils, today warns that the lack of progress on devolution to other areas, including Yorkshire, is damaging to the economy.

Coun Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s people and places board, said: “Councils want to see their communities reap the benefits of having greater powers and funding to build more homes, secure the infrastructure essential to economic growth, improve our roads, equip people with the skills they need to succeed and increase access to fast and reliable digital connectivity for all.

“But there are concerns that devolution discussions have stalled and opportunities are being missed.”

The LGA called on the Government to take a more flexible approach to devolution deals to ensure more areas benefit.

Mr Hammond’s visit to the North today, including a stop in Leeds, comes as Yorkshire council leaders draw up a new devolution plan for the region.

Last week, 17 of 20 councils backed the principle of the One Yorkshire proposal to elect a single metro-mayor for the region.

Wakefield has not yet backed the idea and Rotherham and Sheffield remain committed to the Sheffield City Region deal they signed two years ago but which has stalled in recent months.

Mr Hammond will face questions over the Government’s willingness to consider the One Yorkshire approach.

The visit will also be a chance for him to stress the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse idea after weeks of criticism following changes to its plans to upgrade rail connections in the North.

Mr Hammond said: “Boosting productivity in the North is at the very heart of the government’s ambition to build an economy that works for everyone.

“As we prepare to leave the European Union it is even more important that we support the Northern Powerhouse to reach its full potential.

“That’s why we are investing record amounts in infrastructure, and working with Metro Mayors to encourage growth and create opportunities throughout the North.”

The TUC in Yorkshire will today hold a meeting to discuss the One Yorkshire plan.