Leaders in call for talks over Yorkshire mayor

An image of senior council figures holding the Yorkshire flag was released with the latest statement on devolution talks
An image of senior council figures holding the Yorkshire flag was released with the latest statement on devolution talks
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COUNCIL LEADERS are seeking formal talks with ministers over a plan for Yorkshire to take over key powers from the Government through a regional elected mayor.

The group behind the so-called One Yorkshire plan have called for an “urgent” meeting with the Government to discuss how the idea can be taken forward.

A meeting this week saw representatives of 17 of the region’s 20 councils again confirm their support in principle for the One Yorkshire idea after first discussing the proposal in July.

There had been suggestions ahead of the meeting that scepticism from the Government over the idea, particularly from Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry, over the summer might have weakened the resolve of some Conservative leaders.

But a source familiar with the latest discussions on Thursday described the mood of the meeting as “determined”.

A joint statement released today said the 17 authorities, who described themselves as the “Coalition of the Willing” had “unanimously” agreed to take the One Yorkshire plan forward.

It said senior council officers “have been tasked to develop proposals for such a deal working with stakeholders, MPs, businesses, unions and political groups”.

The statement continued: “At the same time, we will be seeking an urgent meeting with Ministers to discuss how best we can work as partners to progress a One Yorkshire devolution deal and obtain clarity on the Government’s position.

“We are confident that given the right deal and the right funding, Yorkshire can finally complete the missing piece in the Northern Powerhouse project benefiting Yorkshire, the North and the whole country in the process.”

One Yorkshire would see a new mayor for the region elected, working with a combined authority made up of council leaders.

It is the latest attempt to end the political deadlock which has prevented this region agreeing a devolution ‘deal’ with the Government similar to those struck by areas including the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Tees Valley.

A draft devolution deal was struck by a group of councils known as the Sheffield City Region two years ago which should have seen a mayor elected in May.

But it has been beset by problems with Chesterfield and Bassetlaw withdrawing and Barnsley and Doncaster now taking part in the One Yorkshire talks.

Government ministers have insisted the four South Yorkshire councils should press ahead with their deal, worth £30m a year, and hold a Sheffield City Region mayoral election in May 2018 while devolution for the rest of Yorkshire should be settled separately.

Sheffield and Rotherham remain committed to the Sheffield City Region deal and were not represented at the latest One Yorkshire talks. Wakefield also did not take part.

A meeting of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority later this month is expected to see council leaders asked to decide whether they want to move forward with their deal.