THE leader of Britain’s largest business organisations has said that now is the moment for devolved powers to be handed to Yorkshire.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the CBI, told The Yorkshire Post that if the region could get rid of the twin uncertainties of both a lack of devolution and Brexit that there would be “nothing stopping this region from being an absolute powerhouse for the nation”.
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Ms Fairbairn added that failure to strike a deal for Yorkshire had seen it miss out on opportunities and that if the paralysis continued that the region would slip behind the likes of Manchester and Birmingham where elected mayors are in place.
And she added that more local powers and decision making would allow the country to tackle head on some of the issues of deprivation and isolation which fuelled the country’s vote to exit the European Union.
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Ms Fairbairn told this newspaper: “There has been a lot of talk about devolution, what business really needs to see is action.
“Particularly now, when we have such scale of change. The technology revolution is on us, the climate change challenge is here - we need scale to be able to compete.
“We need to have big-scale economies, interconnected to create joint labour markets, joint policy and to act as a single economy. It is now so urgent.
“What I am saying, enough words - we now need action.”
The CBI chief added that there was a need for Government to offer more clarity over what criteria it sought from devolution.
Speaking at her organisation annual Yorkshire dinner she said that plans for a One Yorkshire deal were “put forward in good faith” by the region but said they were “rejected with little explanation” by ministers and that the nation risked a fatigue and apathy on the matter were there to be no resolution.
“We do want to see more clarity from Government about what good looks like,” she said.
“We do need the local politicians to step up, work with business and, where needed, compromise. This has to be a time for real action and decision making. We have been in the waiting room for too long.
“I do not think it is in any way too late for Yorkshire I think actually now is the moment. There is plenty of time.
“It is a very significant, self contained economy here in Yorkshire If we leave it much longer you will start seeing Greater Manchester pulling ahead. If we leave it much longer you will see other regions of the country pulling ahead.
“I think one of the really important messages here is that none of this really ought to be about competition with the rest of the country, this is about competition with the rest of the world. It is not Leeds versus Manchester, it is about Leeds versus an up-and-coming city in China or India.
“That is what a strong devolution vision would enable this region to seek to achieve - a really big global ambition for the region.”
Ms Fairbairn added that in places like Manchester and Birmingham where there is a devolution of skills budgets, that local areas can tailor the training and education to the kinds of skills that are needed by individual regions.
“There are practical changes that can be delivered through devolution and really get to the heart of some of the challenges that the country has been facing the drove the Brexit votes,” she said.