‘Coalition’ bid to end devolution deadlock for Yorkshire

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EFFORTS are under way to end the deadlock over Yorkshire devolution with an attempt to build a “coalition of the willing”, The Yorkshire Post has learned.

A document sent to council leaders ahead of a meeting today is the latest attempt to generate support for the idea of a single devolution agreement covering the whole of the region and the likely election of a Yorkshire mayor.

It claims that striking an ambitious regional deal could double Yorkshire’s economic output over 30 years. The paper says: “Our Yorkshire model is ambitious to provide England’s biggest county with greater control over its own destiny. It provides a way to answer the great challenges like combining a strong economy with tackling social division and improving public services.”

The document, created by senior councillors and council leaders, sets out two possible models for Yorkshire-wide devolution, one a system led by a newly-elected Yorkshire Mayor, the other a structure with a cabinet of Yorkshire council leaders at the top.

It stresses the history of Yorkshire’s urban and rural areas working together and the power the region would wield given its population of 5.4m people and an economy worth more than £110bn a year. But it also seeks to placate those who argue that devolution should be focused on smaller areas by setting plans for significant powers to be retained at a ‘sub-regional’ level. However, it is understood that the draft proposal has not been well received by a number of authorities across Yorkshire.

Rotherham and Sheffield’s preference continues to be to press ahead with the Sheffield City Region agreement signed by South Yorkshire councils and then-Chancellor George Osborne in 2015 which has stalled in recent months. It is also understood the document has been met with scepticism by senior figures in West Yorkshire. Wakefield Council leader Peter Box this week told The Yorkshire Post his authority’s preference remained to pursue a Leeds City Region deal while holding out the option of developing a wider Yorkshire agreement in the future.

Government ministers have repeatedly said they want the Sheffield City Region deal to go ahead with the election of a metro-mayor for South Yorkshire in May 2018 and for other parts of the region to come forward with their own devolution proposals.

The paper is due to be discussed at a meeting of the majority of Yorkshire’s council leaders today.

Yorkshire’s leaders should not be “seduced” by the idea of having an elected mayor and should push ahead with getting a devolution deal without one, an influential development scrutiny panel has been told.

Labour councillor John Illingworth told the Leeds Civic Hall committee: “I don’t want to be saddled with a mayor. mayors will come and go, but fundamentally the democratic committee system is a good way of running things. We should always be ambitious. But we shouldn’t be seduced by the razzmatazz of a mayoral administration.”

The West Midlands recently elected its first metro-mayor. Greater Manchester is among the other areas to have agreed deals and elected mayors.