YORKSHIRE is one step closer to self-governance with a major deal set to be unveiled in the New Year, the Government’s devolution secretary has announced.
Despite deadlock between West, North and East Yorkshire councils over how a power transfer will work, control over spending, transport and skills will be run locally instead of through Whitehall from 2016.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, said people in Yorkshire should expect to see a radical shift in power from London within the next couple of months as it would be “crazy” for one of the biggest economies in Europe to be locked out of having their own regional control.
Bitter negotiations between council leaders across the region over the past 18 months are all part of the “hard yards” of striking a deal, he said, but a breakthrough is on its way.
“Yorkshire is such an important part not only of the
Northern Powerhouse but of the devolution agenda, that I won’t rest until I see Yorkshire included,” he said.
He said over the next few months “I hope that we would be able to make significant progress” and “agree a lot of these deals”, including in Yorkshire and other parts of the country.
He said: “Sometimes these do involve some hard yards of local negotiations and I think it’s important that everyone engages constructively with those conversations.
“Nothing good happens without people being prepared to move out of their comfort zone and to listen to people’s views.
“In no place was there an immediate obvious set of arrangements.
“In every case where we’ve agreed deals, people have come together and formed consensus that in the beginning seemed to be a long way off.”
“We don’t set deadlines, it’s more important to get it right.”
So far Yorkshire has struggled to move forward with a
plan, while Manchester, Liverpool, the North East and Teesside are forging ahead by negotiating a power transfer with the Treasury.
One issue has also been the Government’s requirement for a directly elected mayor accountable for the power shift, and which close neighbour Sheffield is currently trying to iron out with the Government.
They accepted a deal earlier this autumn, but there now fresh are concerns over the mayor’s power to veto decisions.
While conversations continue between North, West and East Yorkshire, Mr Clark insists that devolution must be driven by local communities and the Government will not intervene under any circumstances.
He said he was confident that Yorkshire’s political leaders would soon reach an agreement on how new powers would be managed.
One plan under consideration by the Treasury is called Greater Yorkshire, which has the largest geography, and another is the Leeds City Region, backed by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
Some devolution models proposed for Yorkshire also involve counties and district councils coming together, and there has been concern that some local authorities will have more powers than others.
Mr Clark said it was up to each area proposing devolution to come up with their own voting rights for members.
He said: “There’s big opportunities for the districts but its entirely bespoke and they can arrange it among themselves.”