With Osborne gone, could Yorkshire broker a single devolution deal?

In September, former Chancellor George Osborne shared a platform with Sir Richard Leese  Leader of Manchester City Council, Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, Dame Nancy Rothwell of Manchester University, and James Cooper, Chief Executive ABP
In September, former Chancellor George Osborne shared a platform with Sir Richard Leese Leader of Manchester City Council, Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, Dame Nancy Rothwell of Manchester University, and James Cooper, Chief Executive ABP
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THE debate over how Yorkshire should take more control over its own affairs could take a fresh twist today.

South Yorkshire council leaders are expected to discuss the Sheffield City Region devolution agreement they struck with then Chancellor George Osborne last year amid growing doubts over whether it will go ahead in its current form.

The Yorkshire Post understands the meeting could hear calls for the idea of a single devolution deal for the whole of the region to be revived.

The uncertainty around the Sheffield City Region deal in recent weeks has led to a number of senior figures across the region privately raising the prospect of looking again at Yorkshire-wide devolution.

However there has been a reluctance by supporters of the idea outside South Yorkshire to raise it publicly for fear of appearing as if they are willing the Sheffield City Region deal to fail.

But the prospect of South Yorkshire council leaders themselves re-opening the discussions could give the concept a new lease of life.

South Yorkshire council leaders agreed their deal with Mr Osborne last October which promises to see powers across skills, transport and other areas moved from Whitehall to the region along with an extra £30m in funding.

A new mayor for the whole of South Yorkshire, Chesterfield and Bassetlaw - the Sheffield City Region area covered by the deal - is also due to be elected in May as part of the agreement.

If those elections are to go ahead as planned, the deal will need to be ratified by council leaders in a matter of weeks.

But the Brexit vote, the change of Government and tensions in South Yorkshire over HS2 have all contributed to doubts emerging over whether the agreement should go-ahead.

It is understood today’s meeting is unlikely to see the agreement torn up but there will be suggestions that the period before the deadline is used to hold talks with council leaders from across Yorkshire on next steps.

The rest of the region has been deadlocked over how to take up the Government’s offer to devolve powers to regions since South Yorkshire agreed its own deal.

Councils in North, West and East Yorkshire have been unable to agree on whether the remainder of the region should pursue a single agreement, known as Great Yorkshire, or pursue a number of deals covering smaller areas.

Other parts of the North with devolution deals have already seen candidates chosen for the mayoral elections in 2017 and discussions take place about further powers they may take on once a mayor is in place.

That has fuelled concerns in Yorkshire that the region is in danger of missing out as the new regional mayors use their mandate to demand extra attention from the Government.

Supporters of Yorkshire-wide devolution argue a single regional mayor would have more influence because of the size of the region. It would also make it easier to promote the Yorkshire ‘brand’ with potential investors.

But critics argue in reality that while Yorkshire has a cultural identity, in economic terms it makes more sense to organise around smaller areas.