DAVID Cameron has promised West Yorkshire it is not at the end of the devolution process as pressure grows on city leaders to unite behind a new metro mayor
The Prime Minister has told The Yorkshire Post he will not let the region be left behind as Manchester pushes ahead with ever increasing devolution deals, and denied claims Leeds was being punished for failing to show new leadership.
In his budget this week Chancellor George Osborne announced a devolution package for West Yorkshire councils but stopped short of handing over the same multi-billion pound job creation package given to Manchester over the least 12 months.
Insiders have made clear the reason for the devolution snub is that council leaders in Greater Manchester have united behind the Chancellor’s plans for a metro mayor, something leaders in West Yorkshire have opposed.
Those same leaders were urged to drop their opposition yesterday when James Sproule, chief economist and director of policy at the Institute of Directors, called for a rethink.
Mr Sproule said the Government had a clear preference and Yorkshire had to accept that.
Mr Sproule said: “If you have a mayor, the feeling in Whitehall is, that there is somebody who is ultimately accountable, somebody whom they can speak to, somebody whom they can say to, OK I’m giving you x billion pounds, deliver education to your region.
“If they see a very diffuse government, with nobody willing to take responsibility or responsibility divided up in so many different ways, that it’s very difficult to say that you’re the one who’s going to be responsible for delivering, then it’s more difficult to devolve.”
The prime minister though has denied there was a Yorkshire snub in the Budget.
He said: “Every part of the country is different in terms of when you are bringing local authorities together, and I don’t think that devolution has to be identical in different parts of the country.
“We want an arrangement between Whitehall and Westminster on one hand and the great northern cities on the other.
“I think it’s good Yorkshire has made this progress with the West Yorkshire combined authority, there’s a lot being devolved, and the enterprise zone being extended, there’s good package there.
“The best thing for West Yorkshire now is for it to get on with delivering the city deal and if there is more that can be done then there are further conversations that can be had, this is not a sort of one off static process.”
The deal announced for West Yorkshire sees council leaders handed extra powers over skills, transport,and housing. Local authorities will also have a greater say over long-term transport and housing planning.