ONE hundred days after the election of metro mayors in many of Yorkshire’s competitor regions, there appears, belatedly, to be growing political recognition that the protracted impasse over devolution in this county – England’s largest – needs to be broken, and sooner rather than later.
Though it’s paramount that Yorkshire’s councils coalesce around a leadership structure that has the best interests of the whole county, urban and rural, at heart, rather than going off at half-cock, time is of the essence as the Government prioritises those areas that have embraced devolution.
That said, the economic opportunities – in terms of new jobs and investment – will only be maximised if politicians work in tandem with dynamic entrepreneurs from the private sector, a point that the Federation of Small Businesses makes forcefully with its submission today.
Though most small firms – lauded as the “backbone” of the UK economy by Margaret Thatcher – believe they will benefit from the empowerment of local communities, an overwhelming majority feel excluded from the decision-making process in spite of them knowing more about wealth-creation, and the relevant issues, than many councillors in the vanguard.
This needs to be addressed – some councils and combined authorities have become blinkered in their approach because of party politics – and the input of the whole private sector will be critical to any devolution deal winning the confidence of taxpayers who want more effective leadership rather than additional tiers of bureaucracy which might convolute the decision-making process.
Yet, as the FSB makes clear, this process also needs to be underpinned by transparency and accountability.
Though mayors would be held to account at the ballot box, there’s still insufficient focus on the often overlapping work of combined authorities and local enterprise partnerships.
For the genuine concerns of small businesses and local taxpayers to be allayed, this culture of secrecy needs to be ended quickly so not to risk a wider loss of confidence.