Tom Richmond: Time for business to break deadlock over Yorkshire devolution

Should business leaders take over the devolution debate and shame Yorkshire politicians into action?
Should business leaders take over the devolution debate and shame Yorkshire politicians into action?
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SIX months ago yesterday, The Yorkshire Post published an open letter from many of the region’s most senior – and respected – business leaders in which they urged political leaders to end this county’s devolution deadlock.

It concluded with these words: “2017 must go down as the year in which Yorkshire takes control of its destiny to make us greater than we have ever been in our long, proud history. We have great opportunities, as long as we all work together.”

Yet, in the second half of year, this is already a forlorn hope despite George Osborne, the former Chancellor, saying leaders must operate region-wide while Jake Berry, the new Northern Powerhouse Minister, said devolution must be driven from the ‘bottom up’.

As metro-mayors – elected in May – start to make a difference in neighbouring regions, I can only conclude that this area’s leaders believe self-interest, namely their own positions, perks and privileges, are more important than the greater good because of parochial party politics.

This can’t continue. Industrialists realise this, business leaders realise this in their contributions to these columns, and the public realise this. As such, the time has surely come for the leaders of each of the region’s key economic sectors, together with the heads of colleges and universities, to come together and see if they can come up with a leadership model which puts Yorkshire’s business interests in the driving seat.

These are people who know how to create jobs, and make money, by virtue of their experience. I believe that there is the knowledge and willpower out there to come up with a framework for the future that protects Yorkshire’s traditional and new industries as well as the rural economy. It’s the private sector that needs to flourish if Yorkshire is to prosper and such an approach, if it can be shown to work, it might shame politicians into action.

THERESA May wants to work with others. The evidence suggests otherwise.

When the all-party Communities and Local Government Select Committee headed by Sheffield MP Clive Betts produced a unanimous report about adult social care in March, and the need for collaboration, Mrs May’s Tory manifesto then did the precise opposite.

When Mr Betts asked Ministers about plans to meet Northern councils and businesses to discuss Brexit, they said he would find out after any such meetings had taken place. “I rather suspect that no such meetings were planned,” he concluded. Mrs May should be reminded that actions do speak louder than words.

LABOUR MP John Mann hit the nail on the head when he asked Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss: “As a public sector worker, how much has the right hon. Lady’s own pay increased since 2010 and how much has her productivity ​increased since 2010?”

She dodged the issue of productivity – she should have been sacked for her betrayal of the North’s flooding victims – before making mealy-mouthed comments which re-enforced the view that there’s one rule for MPs and another for everyone else.

EVEN though Labour education spokeswoman Angela Rayner’s Northern accent has been unfairly mocked, Tory critics should take notice of what she said.

Reminded of her leader Jeremy Corbyn’s election promise to wipe off 
the tuition fees debts incurred by university students, she said this was merely an “ambition” because it would cost £100bn.

Full marks for honesty. Now tell the young that they will have pay back electoral ‘sweeteners’ like this through higher taxes when they get older.

REPORTS that former chief whip Andrew Mitchell told dinner party guests that Theresa May is “dead in the water” need some context.

First, Mr Mitchell will never regain any credibility after being involved in the ‘bikegate’ scandal at the entrance to Downing Street a few years ago.

Second, he’s desperate to return to the Cabinet and will, therefore, do anything to advance the cause of his long-term ally David Davis, the Brexit Secretary. If it was anyone else, the PM would have reason to worry.

WHEN Bradford MP Judith Cummins asked Theresa May’s deputy about reported delays to TransPennine rail electrification between Yorkshire and Manchester, I note Damian Green’s reply made no reference to these fears. I wonder why?

NOW that the Lake District has been afforded ‘World Heritage’ status by Unesco, and is looking forward to 
using this accolade to attract tourists from around the world, how does Yorkshire intend to counter this? Is there now too much emphasis on Sir Gary Verity’s bike races? Discuss.

FOUR nations, one heart. After the British and Irish Lions drew their momentous series against the New Zealand’s All Blacks, is there any chance of this ethos being applied to Brexit?

SUE Barker’s peerless presenting of BBC’s Wimbledon coverage on TV is at odds with George Riley’s pathetic punditry on Radio 5 Live. Asked if Johanna Konta had the right tactics, he guffawed: “I completely agree based on absolutely nothing.” Silence would have been more illuminating.

WORDS I never expected to write in my youth, John McEnroe has gone from the brash ‘bad boy’ of tennis to the elder statesman of the game. Perhaps President Donald Trump could follow this example.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk