Yorkshire devolution is more important than Brexit, we cannot let it slip away - Mark Casci

Cruck Barn - Yorkshire Dales
Cruck Barn - Yorkshire Dales
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The old adage that it is better to travel than to arrive at your destination is true in many cases, but resolutely not when it comes to devolving powers away from London.

The process of transitioning the United Kingdom away from being one of the most centralised nation’s among the world’s leading economies has been an often tortuous one.

One Yorkshire

One Yorkshire

Those of you who are, like me, old enough to remember the glorious failure that was the attempt to establish Regional Assemblies under the Government of Tony Blair will know this only too well.

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And while the devolved powers model set up around the Northern Powerhouse agenda has achieved some notable successes it has yet to wash up on Yorkshire.

The Sheffield City Region deal collapsed amid infighting between its local authorities and the One Yorkshire bid was rejected by Whitehall without much of an explanation.

As a journalist and paid writer of words, my cynicism is hard-wired into my DNA. However, as we march into the end of the year, it would seem that we may soon see some progress.

One Yorkshire devolution conference

One Yorkshire devolution conference

As was revealed in The Yorkshire Post, the Government has laid out an offer to West Yorkshire’s political leaders which could potentially see a metro mayor elected in 2022 with control over adult education budgets, delivery of homes and economic growth.
This belated yet highly welcome development would allow us to finally take control of our own destiny on key matters such as infrastructure and, most importantly, skills and training.

News could soon land on this front as soon as the coming days.

It has been a long-fought battle, but one that could genuinely allow us to benefit the whole region. Myself and fellow YP colleagues have been told that the position of ultimately wishing to see a wider One Yorkshire solution delivered remains the end game for most involved.

However, we cannot hang around forever waiting for this to happen.

Dan Jarvis

Dan Jarvis

I’ve been advocating for One Yorkshire pretty relentlessly for more than three years now but I am practical enough to know that something is better than nothing at this stage.

I had the chance to interview Carolyn Fairbairn last week ahead of the CBI’s Yorkshire dinner and, as ever, her views on the matter were well-informed.

She issued a call to arms to local politicians to, in her words “step up, work with business and, where needed, compromise”.
Her position was that, while it is not too late for Yorkshire, that the train is in danger of leaving the station without us on board.

“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 pulling ahead.”

Carolyn Fairbairn - Getty Images

Carolyn Fairbairn - Getty Images

As such, in a scenario analogous to Brexit, any deal is better than no deal. Signing off on devolution for West Yorkshire does more than benefit the West Riding.

It could, at long last, help unlock the Sheffield deal, something that the citizens of South Yorkshire have been long overdue.

With Mayor Dan Jarvis handed the full remit of powers that the devolution deal for the region has stipulated for we could potentially see more large-scale inward investments into the region, along the lines of the likes of Boeing, McLaren and, just this week, the Dymag Group.

It should also be formulated in such a way that both North and the East Riding of Yorkshire be allowed to have some input into proceedings. And, of course, One Yorkshire should remain very much on the table and remain regarded for what it is, namely a development which could be among the most significant in the historic county’s history.

At this stage the ball remains in the Government’s court.

Failing to devolve powers to the English regions was, aside from of course the Iraq War, the biggest failing of his premiership, one that led ultimately to the Brexit vote.

Protestors

Protestors

But devolution is far, far more important to the future of this country than Brexit ever can be – and we cannot allow the potential good it will bring to slip from our grasp.