Business leaders appeal '¨for unity over deal

The Northern Powerhouse could be undermined from the outset if large parts of Yorkshire fail to secure a devolution deal, according to a senior figure at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The warning comes as a number of influential business organisations backed calls for a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal.

Phil Jones, chairman of CBI’s regional council for Yorkshire, said there is significant concern in the business community that much of the region has “fallen behind the pace”.

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He added: “In particular, the lack of a deal for large parts of Yorkshire already seems to be creating the very real prospect of gaps within the Northern Powerhouse, undermining the whole initiative from the outset.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which represents 14,000 firms in the region, has thrown its weight behind a comprehensive deal that would cover “many willing partners”.

Roger Marsh OBE, chairman of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said he would be “supportive of a wider deal” if a Leeds City Region deal can’t be agreed.

“It is now time to complete the key missing piece in the North’s devolution jigsaw if our significant region – worth more than one-fifth of the Powerhouse – is to play its full part in driving a competitive and prosperous national economy,” he said.

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Mr Jones, who is also the chief executive of Northern Powergrid, says that the consensus amongst businesses within the region was that progress needed to be made quickly on a devolution deal regardless of geography.

“Deals must be constructed so as to allow meaningful collaboration from day one on pan-regional issues and to leverage the powerful brand that Yorkshire enjoys,” Mr Jones said. “The people of the region should be free to openly explore the potential for even closer links between their devolved entities as part of packages of devolution.” He said that there was a “need for pragmatism” over a pan-Yorkshire deal. Mr Jones added: “In this context, that translates into recognising that the deal in South Yorkshire is already formulated. We should finish what has been started there and concentrate on bringing the rest of the region along as quickly as possible.

“The recently reported discussions around a devolution framework that has the potential to bring the rest of Yorkshire into the equation quickly would be strongly supported by businesses throughout the region.”

Doncaster Chamber called on all devolution options, including a Yorkshire-wide deal, to be “explored”, after 150 company chiefs and organisational heads wrote to the leaders of councils in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield urging them to break the deadlock over South Yorkshire’s bid. Dan Fell, CEO of Doncaster Chamber, said a short period of time should be given to work up a Yorkshire-wide proposal to allow for a comparison.

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