Why Yorkshire is better united than divided, according to a mayor and council leader

When Yorkshire comes together: The Tour de Yorkshire
When Yorkshire comes together: The Tour de Yorkshire

THE story of delivering devolution to towns, cities and communities in Yorkshire may be long and complicated, but one thing is very clear. Devolution is important.

It is important in order to give us more power to direct our own future.

It’s important to put resources in the hands of Yorkshire people, to back up those decision-making powers.

And it’s vitally important for our economy, not least in a post-Brexit world where we must be bold and ambitious as the national and international landscape changes.

Clearly, however, this is not a decision to be taken lightly. In all likelihood, devolution will affect the future of our great county and its people for many decades to come, so we must get it right.

That’s why, when a new proposal for a potential Yorkshire-wide devolution arrangement was brought forward by West Yorkshire authorities, we wanted to stop and fully explore the opportunity of such a potentially transformational development.

It came at a time when much of the devolution landscape was changing.

In 2015 we brought forward a proposal for the Sheffield City Region which, at the time, looked to be the only show in town.

That is clearly no longer the case and, equally, much else has changed.

In addition to the EU referendum, we have a new Government, the Sheffield City Region lost a judicial review and both Bassetlaw and Chesterfield have pulled out of their plans to become full members of the City Region, leaving just the four South Yorkshire Authorities.

If we want to deliver the best possible future for Yorkshire, have a powerful voice and be competitive with the likes of Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and London, then we should reach for the best.

A One Yorkshire devolution model offers the scale and opportunity for Yorkshire to capitalise on its outstanding assets, diversity and, of course, our world-renowned brand.

Yorkshire also means something tangible to local residents and proud communities, who must have a stake in such an important development in local democracy.

As the leaders of Doncaster and Barnsley, we have one only objective – to do the best for our towns, more than half a million local residents and our growing business communities.

Our boroughs have come a long way in the last 20 years, despite some serious issues.

Today our economies are the fastest growing in South Yorkshire and there is an increasing vibrancy to our places, which have a bright future ahead.

Many of our assets are also Yorkshire’s assets.

What’s more, we have direct borders and vital economic links with North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and East Yorkshire.

For many of our businesses and residents, these links are just as important as those within South Yorkshire – and in many cases more important.

So whilst Barnsley and Doncaster will not turn its back on our neighbours in the Sheffield City Region, we are also clear that we do aspire to something bigger if it is possible.

That is a One Yorkshire devolution solution, which puts Yorkshire at the heart of local and national decision-making, and secures our future as the greatest county of them all.

Ros Jones is Mayor of Doncaster and Sir Steve Houghton is leader of Barnsley Council.