YP Letters: Yorkshire missed chance in 2004 to break grip of London

Yorkshire devolution is deadlocked.
Yorkshire devolution is deadlocked.
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From: Philip Hellawell, Brighouse Wood Lane, Brighouse.

YOUR headline ‘Minister dismisses hopes of devolution for region’ (The Yorkshire Post, July 10) describes the “blow from Northern Powerhouse chief on his first visit” to Yorkshire.

This is, of course, no surprise since the Government seems obsessed with the idea that provincial regions must be city-based. While this may work well for Lancashire and the West Midlands in the shape of Manchester and Birmingham, there has never been one over-riding city in Yorkshire.

Sheffield (pop. C.570,000) and Leeds (pop. C.780,000) have long been rivals for Yorkshire’s main city, but Bradford (pop. C.530,000) is only 10 miles from Leeds, while Hull has a population of some 260,000.

Not only that, but there has always been rivalry, not only between these four great cities, but also from the smaller towns such as Rotherham, Doncaster, Wakefield, Huddersfield and Halifax. Furthermore our best known city by some distance has to be York, which not only gives its name to our great county but is also centrally located therein.

The total population of Yorkshire is now in the area of 5,400,000 which makes it bigger than Scotland, Wales, Ireland (Eire), Finland, Norway and New Zealand. So, by any definition, a regional government for the county is justified to counter-balance the disproportionate power of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Greater London. Unfortunately we are lumped in with the rest of England, ruled by a centralised government, remote not only geographically, but culturally as well. We only see major politicians in Yorkshire just before general elections and then that’s pretty well it.

What a shame therefore that John Prescott’s idea of a regional assembly for Yorkshire should have been so casually dismissed in 2004. Not only was the plan to bring prosperity, pride and democracy to our county, but we would have been governed by people who had the region’s interests at heart. Had we grasped that opportunity, we would have been the leaders in England in having our own regional leadership, rather than the laggards which we now are.

Unfortunately, and sadly not unusually for Yorkshire folk, we focused on the cost of what was described as “another layer of bureaucracy”, rather than the political clout. Ask the residents of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland whether they would want to go back to the days of being governed directly from London and I doubt if you would have many takers.