YP Comment: Time for Yorkshire to pull together

Should all the economic focus be on Leeds?
Should all the economic focus be on Leeds?
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Devolution debate can’t be ducked

TODAY’S report into the economic performance of Yorkshire’s major cities, and their adjacent “satellite towns”, is another reminder about the importance of joined-up policy-making when it comes to the Government’s Northern Powerhouse and devolution agendas.

For, while six towns – Keighley, Castleford, Barnsley, Rotherham, Dewsbury and Wakefield – struggled to match the prosperity being enjoyed in nearby cities, locations like Shipley, Pudsey, Beverley and Grimsby have been identified as enjoying a renaissance according to the influential think-tank Demos.

Yet, while there will always be local factors such as the performance of schools and availability of affordable housing for first-time buyers, artificial local government boundaries are becoming increasingly irrelevant as family lifestyles become more transient – today’s generation of workers commute far greater distances than their forebears and investment in transport infrastructure remains one of this region’s greatest policy challenges.

Take Leeds, where campaigners are opposing plans to encroach, still further, on the city’s green belt because there is insufficient housing. If more investment could be generated, for example, in Castleford, a town that has paid a heavy price for the decline of traditional manufacturing industries,the area may become more appealing to property developers and thereby alleviate the pressure on Leeds.

Growth should not be all about the needs of one city – there’s potential for the whole county to benefit from a new era of prosperity if it agrees the right political apparatus. In this respect, it is even more important that this region reaches a collective agreement, sooner rather than later, on how best to utilise the powers that the Government is proposing to devolve from Whitehall.

More than a year after neighbouring authorities joined forces in Greater Manchester, councils here are still unsure whether Leeds City Region should be a separate entity, or whether it should combine with town halls in North and East Yorkshire in order to broaden the whole county’s appeal to international investors and so on. They can’t keep putting off this decision. For, the longer they prevaricate, the greater the likelihood of the North West and North East stealing a march on God’s own county and the Government being forced to impose a devolution deal on this region.

The image of 2015? World haunted by refugee’s body

THE indifference which greeted Angela Merkel being named Time magazine’s person of the year was due, in no small part, to the odious Donald Trump being amongst the nominees in a year that will not be remembered for great leadership.

Perhaps an alternative candidate would have been Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old victim of the Syrian civil war whose body was washed up on a beach in early September. This haunting image came to symbolise man’s inhumanity to man, but it also became a social media phenomenon according to research undertaken by academics at the University of Sheffield into the impact of Twitter and Facebook on political dialogue.

As Britain comes to terms with MPs authorising RAF airstrikes in Syria, and whether this will lead to the UK becoming an even greater target for terrorists, such pictures can only make more people of aware of the brutal bloodshed in some parts of the world and to appreciate that inaction can, on occasion, have even greater consequences than military action. These are troubling times – perhaps the challenge for 2016 is utilising social media so the world can condemn all those whose actions and motives pose such a threat to the liberty of all.

Goodwill gesture: Companionship at Christmas

the VERY fact that David Cameron is hosting a Christmas lunch at 10 Downing Street today for the elderly illustrates the extent to which attitudes are changing when it comes to loneliness.

There is now an acceptance that social isolation needs to be tackled with constructive policies, rather than a resigned shrug of the shoulders, so the lonely do not become an even greater burden to the cash-strapped NHS.

With loneliness being increasingly recognised as a medical condition thanks to an award-winning campaign by The Yorkshire Post and others, Mr Cameron’s gesture of goodwill is a timely boost to the ongoing efforts of those groups who recognise that one of the most important gifts of all at Christmas is one of companionship.