PM urged to end deadlock over Yorkshire devolution

Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron
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THE PRIME Minister will be asked to personally intervene to end the deadlock over proposals to devolve powers and money from Whitehall to Yorkshire.

Senior councillors in West Yorkshire have voiced their frustration at the failure to secure a so-called devolution deal following weeks of discussions with Government officials and Ministers.

It is understood no specific objections have been raised about the latest proposals put to the Government but equally no indication that a deal can be done imminently.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg suggested earlier this week that the Treasury is the major obstacle to progress.

Coun Peter Box, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “We have found this extremely frustrating when you look at the public comments that are made by senior Ministers and the Prime Minister on devolution and then we are dealing with civil servants which is like walking through treacle.

“I am not sure we are getting anywhere at the moment.”

David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne have both spoken about the need to give greater powers to the North as part of a wider vision to turn the area into a ‘northern powerhouse” that can compete with major global cities.

Devolution deals have been struck with Manchester and South Yorkshire but not West Yorkshire and concern is growing that the process could be sidetracked by the upcoming local and general elections if it is not concluded soon.

Speculation has focused on the Chancellor’s preference for areas to adopt elected mayors in return for greater control as a potential sticking point in discussions.

Senior councillors in West Yorkshire insist that they have not ruled out such a move if hugely significant powers, such as the ability to take more control over certain taxes, was on the table.

But the deal currently under discussion would not go that far and is seen as a more modest first stage of devolution.

Council leaders have been further baffled by the failure of the Government to address the issue today as it handed over millions of pounds to be spent locally on growing the economy.

Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield said: “There’s an odd contradiction between giving us those resources that say we believe in the potential of this organisation to bring about change in the economy and on the other hand not saying anything about devolution.

“Quite frankly you cannot talk about a northern powerhouse until you talk about devolution.”

The frustration at the failure to reach agreement was shared across the political divide with Coun Stewart Golton, leader of Liberal Democrats on Leeds Council supporting the call for the Prime Minister to act.

“In grown up politics if there is a problem then you talk about it, you emphasise what needs to be overcome so it can be done.

“Radio silence isn’t grown up politics,” he said.