Business ‘will not tolerate’ a diluted devolution

Henri Murison
Henri Murison
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Business leaders are not going to accept a lesser devolution deal even if Yorkshire presses ahead with a region-wide bid, according to an independent body representing the voice of business and civic leaders.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, says people will have to accept mayors with wide-reaching decision-making powers.

Mr Murison told The Yorkshire Post: “The reality is we’re not going to compromise as businesses on wanting the powers.

“People are going to have to accept that those powers are going to be wielded by somebody who is not as local as a city mayor would be. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“If people think we’re going to accept less powers as businesses simply because it’s going to cover a bigger area they’re mistaken.”

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership was launched in September 2016 to represent the voice of business and civic leaders across the North.

The body is chaired by former Chancellor George Osborne, who outlined the vision for a Northern Powerhouse in 2014.

Manchester has powered ahead on the devolution front agreeing a deal with central Government for greater control over decision making.

A devolution deal this side of the Pennines though has so far been at a deadlock. A Leeds City Region deal didn’t get off the ground due to opposition from a number of Conservative MPs.

Sheffield City Region on the other hand is ploughing ahead with its bid for greater devolutionary powers.

However, earlier this week, a ‘coalition of the willing’ of 17 council leaders, minus Sheffield, backing a pan-Yorkshire devolution deal emerged.

Mr Murison, who was speaking at a Yorkshire Day event hosted CDI Yorkshire, said: “The challenge to them from the business community would be we expect that coalition of willing to be for maximum devolution, not for the lowest common denominator.”

He believes that the Government is committed to helping “the North shape it’s own destiny”.

There is a feeling of frustration that a deal has, as yet, not been agreed on this side of the Pennines, Mr Murison said, and that the Northern Powerhouse Partnership expects a deal by Christmas.

“That’s what we expect and that’s what we’ll put pressure on our politicians and on Government to deliver,” he added.

The Government has insisted mayors being chosen for greater devolution of powers to the regions. Mr Murison says that it’s in Yorkshire’s interests to accept the idea of elected mayors.

“I believe they can provide a significant additional pressure not just for their own areas but on behalf of the North,” he said.

The director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership also said that the North and Yorkshire shouldn’t be forgotten during Brexit talks and he believes negotiations with Europe won’t lead to a devolution deal being sidelined.

“Our dependence on manufacturing as a key part of our economy means that potentially the North has got greater risks from a disorderly exit from the European Union,” Mr Murison said.

He added: “We need to make sure that we get the right trade deal with Europe that gives us the maximum possible access and reach to the single market.”

A celebration of the best

Leading figures from the region’s creative and digital industries came together to celebrate the sector’s strengths in Yorkshire.

Lauren Sharples, from printing company Ryedale Group, was honoured at the Yorkshire Day celebration event event hosted by CDI Yorkshire.

Ms Sharples was the winner of the Victor Watson Trophy, for outstanding achievement as a young person, this year.

John Watson OBE announced that he was stepping down as president of CDI Yorkshire and Robert McClements, CEO of the organisation, will take over as the new president. It was also announced that CDI’s annual showpiece event, the Visual Media Conference will take place on March 27 next year.