THERESA May could not have been clearer at PMQs – what is good for Birmingham, and the so-called Midlands Engine, is good for the rest of the UK as she reiterated her desire to turbo-charge the regional economies. The Tory leader also believes elected mayors are the best way forward.
It’s the same with Greater Manchester, and other locations, which are embracing this leadership model. The great unknown, however, is Yorkshire and the response of MPs, council chiefs and business leaders to Mrs May’s remarks is awaited with interest. The timing could not be more critical after this newspaper revealed on Monday that the devolution deal previously signed for Sheffield City Region is not yet over the line as a critical deadline approaches.
If it collapses at the 11th hour, as some insiders anticipate, this county will be back to square one at a time when regional rivals are making the most of new policy powers, enhancing their transport networks and investing in skills. This impasse can only continue for so long – this region’s future now depends on the upcoming talks.
After all, the challenge facing this county’s urban and rural heartlands is the same; namely developing a world class business infrastructure while ensuring that every citizen, young and old alike, has the chance to fulfil their potential while leading active and healthy lifestyles. In this regard, rival council leaders have far more in common than they are prepared to admit. Perhaps this common cause should be the starting point for a final push to secure the biggest and best devolution deal in Britain, an ambitious agreement which paves the way for South, East, North and West Yorkshire to unite as One Yorkshire and show to the world that not only is this great county is open for business, but an even greater economic force to be reckoned with. Now who is up for the job?
Morrisons move: An appetite for local produce
WITH supermarkets importing 40 per cent of their produce, and costs rising as the value of the pound falls against the American dollar, it’s a potential win-win for consumers – and UK suppliers – if Bradford-based Morrisons starts to stock more food sourced from Yorkshire.
There certainly appears to be an appetite for this judging by a survey of the store’s customers – 85 per cent say the like to ‘buy local’ to reduce food miles and carbon emissions while even more, 95 per cent, want to support British producers.
Not only is this testament to increased awareness about food and the importance of the UK farming industry, but it also shows what is possible when consumers press for change – let’s hope that this new commitment also extends to all supermarkets paying a fair price for milk.
However Brexit does provide further opportunities for UK food producers, notably the Government having the power to set its own labelling laws to not only champion domestic farmers but ensure that there is no confusion about the provenance of products from overseas which are then labelled ‘British’ because they are merely packaged here.
There is absolutely no reason why Defra can’t prepare the necessary legislative changes straight away – it is, after all, headed by the Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom – but there seems a reluctance to do so. Why? Morrisons has taken a lead, the Minister should now follow.
A lasting memorial
AS the season of remembrance begins, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the unheralded work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Not only are its immaculate cemeteries and memorials a lasting tribute to those who gave their lives on foreign fields in the name of freedom, but the charity continues to work tirelessly to identify the remains of the fallen.
Take Sergeant David Ashton from York. He was just 19 when his Bristol Blenheim aircraft was shot down by enemy fire over Sedan in France in May 1940. Yet, more than 75 years later and thanks painstaking research on the Commission’s part, his remains – and those of his fellow crew members – have been identified at the Choloy War Cemetery where they have lain for all these years as unknown airmen. As such, the poignancy was palpable when Sgt Ashton’s nephew, great nephew and great, great nephew attended a service of rededication this week. It’s a reminder of the enduring importance – and legacy – of the Commission’s work in making sure that Britain’s war dead, and their surviving relatives, are never forgotten.