Greater Yorkshire devolution plan ‘very attractive’ according to minister

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark.
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THE POWER struggle over how Yorkshire should be goverened intensified after a minister singled out the Greater Yorkshire proposal as ‘very attractive’.

The region-wide bid for a multi-million pound spending deal from Whitehall was raised in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for Communities Greg Clark and he praised the efforts and ‘imagination’ of the team behind the plan.

However he also stressed that a consensus needs to be made between vying geographical areas wanting greater control and will travel to the region to meet council leaders in person to try and finalise how devolution in Yorkshire could work.

While he commented that he wouldn’t directly endorse Greater Yorkshire, he said: “What I certainly can do is to endorse the great efforts and imagination that have gone into a very attractive bid.

“A number of alternatives for Yorkshire have been put forward to the Government, and I will meet Yorkshire authorities to see whether a consensus can be reached.

Mr Clark’s comments were made as the Government’s Cities and Devolution bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons and is one step closer to becoming law, with more powers available to those who accept a directly elected mayor.

The Greater Yorkshire plan wants North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Humber to unify over a devolution deal, while the Leeds City Region bid includes five West Yorkshire authorities. Sheffield City Region has already forged ahead and will get a £30m annual spending package from Government, and will appoint a directly elected mayor.

Speaking out against a bid that encompasses a larger region of Yorkshire, councillor Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council and Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority which is leading the Leeds City Region bid, said their offered better value for money.

He said: “A devolution deal at this level would also represent better value for the taxpayer by building on existing organisations such as the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and avoiding setting up a huge and costly new regional level structure at a time when the public sector is facing unprecedented budget cuts.”

A plan by Labour to thwart the Government’s devolution plans failed last night after they lost a vote amending the bill, which was backed by many Sheffield MPs, despite its Labour run council winning a landmark devolution deal just weeks ago.

Harry Harpham, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, said their public criticism of the bill doesn’t undermine the work of their Labour local authority colleagues.

Mr Harpham said: “They are imposing a mayor on the cities and in my eyes, that’s not devolution.

“I understand why my colleagues in Sheffield have gone for it, it’s the only deal on the table, although it goes nowhere near the cash they have lost over the past five or six years.

“[Our vote] doesn’t undermine the decision of the council to go for it.”

Labour MPs who didn’t back the Government’s bill included Paul Blomfield, Sheffield Central MP; Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge; Louise Haigh, MP for Heeley; and 
Clive Betts, Sheffield South East MP.

James Wharton, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, said the metro-mayor is accountable for the powers shifting down to regions from Whitehall.