Fightback underway over Yorkshire devolution plans

Timothy Kirkhope MEP
Timothy Kirkhope MEP
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MINISTERS are being urged not to rush into devolving powers from Whitehall to West and South Yorkshire amid efforts to revive the idea of a region-wide initiative.

Supporters of Yorkshire being run by a single body, likely headed by an elected mayor, insist the idea remains a possibility despite efforts from the West and the South to pursue their own devolution plans.

The Government has promised to devolve significant control over their own affairs to areas that have clear plans for their economies and which agree to be led by elected mayors.

The Yorkshire Post revealed last week that West Yorkshire leaders had agreed to pursue devolution based on the ‘Leeds city region’ group of authorites which includes some of West Yorkshire’s neighbours.

South Yorkshire councils are thought likely to take a similar approach based on the ‘Sheffield city region’ which takes in parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Both moves look to have effectively killed off the Yorkshire-wide idea but its supporters are attempting a fight back.

Yorkshire MEP Timothy Kirkhope said he had already spoken to a number of MPs and business figures who shared his concern at the direction the devolution debate has taken in recent days.

Mr Kirkhope said he was concerned about resources being funnelled into cities and then “dribbling out to rural areas”.

He said: “This is also about selling part of Britain to the world. Yorkshire is a terrific name to sell as opposed to just say Sheffield or Leeds.”

He added: “This is all rather a narrow vision, we need a much broader vision here.”

Mr Kirkhope said a Yorkshire-wide approach would also serve the region better when it comes to dealing with the European Union and make it easier to take local control of how money coming via Brussels is spent.

A report published today strengthens the hand of those calling for devolution to focus on improving the performance of cities to help rebalance the national economy.

The Centre for Cities compared the taxes raised in different parts of the country to their working populations and found striking difference.

It estimated that if Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham and their surrounding areas raised their performance to the national average they would generate more than £9 billion in extra tax revenues.

Centre for Cities chief executive Alexandra Jones said: “In a climate of continued austerity, the UK’s cities have a crucial role to play in tackling the deficit and boosting the national economy, but this report shows that too many are failing to reach their economic potential.

She added: “Most importantly, cities need greater control over taxes, which would create more incentives for them to grow their economies.

“Not only would this help underperforming cities to improve, it would also help cities with strong economies such as Milton Keynes and Cambridge to continue to grow.”

Great control over how taxes are raised and spent, known as fiscal devolution, is known to be one of the key demands made by West Yorkshire authorities in their discussions with the Government.

The Centre for Cities figures show that in South Yorkshire £16,534 is generated in taxes for every job while in West Yorkshire the figure is £15,677 compared to a national average of £19,657