Special report: Top business leaders plead for co-operation on devolution

A single white rose is pictured at Temple Newsam Rose garden.

A single white rose is pictured at Temple Newsam Rose garden.

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A GROUP of Yorkshire’s top business leaders is today formally urging politicians to break the deadlock over talks for a devolution settlement for the region.

In a letter published in today’s The Yorkshire Post, the heads of some of the region’s top commercial organisations and companies state that 2017 must be the year when Yorkshire’s elected leaders resolve their political differences and come together in order to make sure that the region does not miss out on increased financial resources and decision making.

MP Jon Trickett backs Yorkshire-wide deal.

MP Jon Trickett backs Yorkshire-wide deal.

The letter, signed by regional heads of the CBI and Institute of Directors among others, is published at the end of a week in which the devolution settlement for South Yorkshire began to show signs of unravelling and political leaders throughout the region expressed willing to work towards a Yorkshire-wide settlement.

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Today, on behalf of businesses across all the great counties of Yorkshire we are appealing to politicians here and in Westminster to break the deadlock over devolution.

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The letter has been penned following months of frustration throughout Yorkshire’s business community concerning the lack of progress, with deals having been agreed upon for Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Merseyside and South Yorkshire.

An extract reads: “2017 must be the year in which Yorkshire finally agrees a comprehensive devolution deal, whatever form it takes. And the sooner, the better.

“Businesses on this side of the Pennines rightly see the huge benefits of devolution, which will enable us to fully unleash our potential for sustained and inclusive growth.

Union Jack Flag on Sheffield Town Hall where there are signs that South Yorkshire deal could fold.

Union Jack Flag on Sheffield Town Hall where there are signs that South Yorkshire deal could fold.

“Today, on behalf of businesses across all the great counties of Yorkshire we are appealing to politicians here and in Westminster to break the deadlock over devolution. 2017 must go down as the year in which Yorkshire takes control of its destiny to make us greater than we have ever been in our long, proud history.”

The message from company bosses is delivered after the notion of a Yorkshire-wide mayor began to gain momentum. A proposed model for a Yorkshire-wide solution was circulated which would see a central figurehead elected to secure increased regional power and be Yorkshire’s representative on a national scale, with “most of the decision making” taking place in the existing combined authorities in West and South Yorkshire - and a new one established for the North and East of the region.

Shadow cabinet minister and Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett yesterday backed the proposals while West Yorkshire’s five council leaders, as well as those in North Yorkshire, Barnsley and Doncaster, all expressed willingness to look again at a region-wide plan.

North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les told The Yorkshire Post: “I welcome this opportunity for constructive discussions on where we go in the future. My view has always been we would prefer to see the widest geography possible. We now have an opportunity to grasp the nettle and get on with it.”

Clive Betts MP

Clive Betts MP

However Labour MPs in Sheffield and Bassetlaw attempted to pour cold water on the idea by issuing a joint statement condemning the proposals. Clive Betts, Paul Blomfield, Gill Furniss, Louise Haigh, John Mann, and Angela Smith collectively denounced the Yorkshire-wide plan saying they were “not in the business of providing solutions to the devolution challenges of North and West Yorkshire” to the detriment of their constituents.

The MPs added that they will be seeking ministerial assurances that any proposals for the rest of Yorkshire will not prejudice their deal. While a devolution settlement has been agreed for South Yorkshire, encompassing Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, Chesterfield and Bassetlaw, it has encountered difficulties and an elections for a mayor due to take place in May has been postponed for at least a year.

NYCC  Leader Carl Les. (S)

NYCC Leader Carl Les. (S)

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