YP Comment: Devolution '“ Yorkshire's leaders must raise their collective game

Former Treasury minister Jim O'Neill.Former Treasury minister Jim O'Neill.
Former Treasury minister Jim O'Neill.
IT IS important that Yorkshire '“ and the rest of Britain '“ does not talk itself into recession just because the electorate had the temerity to vote to leave the European Union.

Even Jim O’Neill, the pessimistic ex-Treasury minister and prominent Remain campaigner, has conceded that the economy has outperformed his own expectations since the June 23 referendum and a slew of new data highlights the continued confidence of this region’s business community. Economists have always found reasons to be fearful and Donald Trump’s election is another imponderable to now exercise them.

However Lord O’Neill, a close ally of George Osborne, did make two other key points in the House of Lords which are particularly pertinent to this region’s future prospects. Though he welcomed the Government’s specific commitment to the Northern Powerhouse in last week’s Autumn Statement following weeks of mixed messages, he noted that the Chancellor’s strategy “did not entirely compensate for the lack of new or additional initiatives”. The peer clearly believes that improved east-west road and rail links are critical to boosting productivity – this region’s MPs, council chiefs and business leaders now need to argue far more effectively for so-called ‘shovel ready’ schemes to be fast-forwarded. As congestion here becomes a barrier to growth, this region’s voice must be heard more audibly in the corridors of power.

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The problem, as Lord O’Neill notes, is the impasse on devolution. Though he was too diplomatic to name and shame Yorkshire when he called for “more local ambition” in those parts of the North which have not followed Greater Manchester’s example and embraced metro-mayors in return for new funding powers, this remains the only significant region in the country not to have reached a consensus on its future governance.

Given that Lord O’Neill’s views will have been shaped by his role at the Treasury from June 2015 until this September, they appear not to reflect particularly well on the effectiveness of this region’s leaders. They now need to raise their game, and prove the former Minister wrong, before Yorkshire does, indeed, have reasons to be fearful about its future destiny.

A sincere response: PM’s commitment on loneliness

REGULAR readers will need no introduction to this newspaper’s award-winning campaign to raise awareness about the issue of loneliness, an initiative which started to change perceptions, and challenge policy-makers, when it was championed so passionately by Jo Cox before her senseless murder.

This work meant so much to Mrs Cox that the Royal Voluntary Service was one of three charities nominated by the Batley & Spen MP’s grieving family for donations. Yet it’s also heartening that her work was not in vain. Without her energy and enthusiasm, Good Morning Britain would not have launched its #1MillionMinutes campaign which urges viewers to spend 30 minutes with a lonely or isolated individual.

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And it does not end here. Credit must also go to Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves and her Tory counterpart Seema Kennedy for accepting the chairmanship of a cross-party commission on how to tackle loneliness – and to Theresa May for offering such heartfelt support at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Following raucous exchanges on the economy, the Tory leader’s sincerity and empathy was discernible as she spoke about the dignity of Mrs Cox’s family throughout a harrowing murder trial, the late MP’s passionate work on loneliness and the need for greater insight about its psychological and physical impact on those who have the misfortune, for whatever reason, to live in solitary isolation.

This enlightened response provides confidence that the work undertaken by Mrs Cox, and others, before her death will not only be continued, but be treated with the utmost respect and seriousness by the Prime Minister.

Harrogate man gets new job – good luck Gareth

GARETH Southgate will need all the luck in the world after being confirmed as the next England football manager. It’s arguably the toughest job in the country, more so than being Prime Minister, Brexit Secretary or Leader of the Opposition.

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Yet Southgate, who lives near Harrogate, has one advantage – expectations have never been lower. Fifty years after Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy on one of this country’s proudest ever days, England is no longer a global power – even more reason for the new manager to invest in young players untainted by past failures and who will be proud to represent the Three Lions.