April 10: Mixed messages on ‘devo’ deals

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FROM THE moment that David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband signed a vow promising “devo-max” to the Scots in order to see off the threat of independence, there has been uncertainty about what this entails for the English regions – and specifically Yorkshire which is of comparable size to Scotland.

The fallout has been a policy mish-mash – Greater Manchester has received unprecedented spending powers, and control of healthcare, while both Leeds and Sheffield have accepted much diminished devolution deals that do not compare favourably to the policy-making freedoms that Whitehall has now acceded to the North West.

The explanation for this disparity appears to be the fact that Manchester has opted to introduce an elected mayor to provide the leadership – and that Chancellor George Osborne believes this is conditional to West and South Yorkshire enjoying comparable powers in the future.

As the region’s political leaders decide how best to respond so that the North West does not steal a march on Yorkshire, David Cameron has now waded into the fray and said that Yorkshire can enjoy a “devo-max” settlement without “metro mayors”.

Just who is right? Is it the Prime Minister or the Chancellor? Either way, this confusion only engenders uncertainty at a time when the region’s leaders need to be pressing ahead with implementing a devolution strategy – one of the key planks of The Yorkshire Post’s election manifesto.

Waiting months, possibly years, after the election for clarity is not good enough – the Northern Powerhouse will only fulfil its potential if it helps Yorkshire, the North West and North East in equal measure.

As such, it is important that the major political parties spend as much time on the framework for this region as they have done on a new settlement for Scotland.

Cooper’s coppers

YVETTE cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, does little to enhance her reputation with the official launch of Labour’s policing policies.

After confirming that she intends to abolish the police and crime commissioners introduced by the coalition, it is now the Opposition’s intention to introduce a “local policing commitment” which will commit individual constabularies to protecting neighbourhood policing and safeguard the future of 10,000 community officers – Labour claim that these roles will be on the 
line if the Tories are returned to office.

Such an approach smacks of change for change’s sakes – the whole raison d’être of PCCs is to ensure that the police respond to the specific needs of their communities and this proposal is hardly going to help Ms Cooper achieve the £800m efficiency savings that she also envisages – Labour’s sums do not appear to add up.

In the aftermath of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s unedifying attack on Ed Miliband’s integrity, it is also regrettable that Labour’s home affairs spokesman has blamed the Tories for a rise in reported cases of child sexual exploitation. Not only is the rise likely to be allied to increased public awareness about such crimes, but this is one policy sphere where police need the full support of national and local politicians if the perpetrators of such misery are to be brought to justice. And such an attack also leaves Ms Cooper’s party open to allegations of hypocrisy; many contend, with good reason, that the Labour-controlled Rotherham Council was 
too slow to respond to claims of industrial-scale abuse in the borough.

Yorkshire pride: raise a glass to county’s pubs

AS Yorkshire basks in spring sunshine, the county’s pubs have been reporting a brisk trade as customers take advantage of the warm weather and visit those hostelries which contribute so much to this region’s food and drink industry. Judging by the number of real ale houses from these parts that rank among Camra’s 200 pubs of the year, there is good reason to raise a glass tonight, at the end of a sun-soaked week, and make a toast to “Yorkshire pride”.

These pubs are not concentrated in one location – they are spread across God’s own county – and epitomise the extent to which this region’s hospitality and tourism industry has been transformed by a commitment to provide unrivalled food and drink, often locally sourced, and customer service to match. Long may this continue. For, unless it does, pubs will struggle to see off the threat posed by those supermarkets whose discount offers are deliberately designed to encourage customers to drink at home.