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Deadlock looms as Conservative leaders back away from One Yorkshire devolution plan

Council leaders backed the One Yorkshire proposal earlier this year.
Council leaders backed the One Yorkshire proposal earlier this year.
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A STRING of Conservative council leaders have called for talks to secure a 'Greater Yorkshire' devolution deal in a blow to the alternative One Yorkshire plan.

A letter signed by North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les, York Council leader David Carr and Conservative district council leader colleagues in North Yorkshire says it is time for councils in North, West and East Yorkshire to negotiate a devolution deal with the Government.

The move is likely to be opposed by Labour council leaders amid doubts they could persuade rank-and-file councillors to back the Greater Yorkshire option.

Labour leaders will also question why they should back the Conservative-supported Greater Yorkshire idea when the Government has previously rejected their preferred Leeds City Region proposal.

The signatories to the latest letter were among the 17 councils to back the One Yorkshire plan over the summer, a proposal for a single devolution deal for the whole of Yorkshire.

However, the Government has resisted the idea and the new letter makes clear North Yorkshire Conservatives now want to explore other options.

But with Labour resistance to Greater Yorkshire, Conservative opposition to Leeds City Region and support ebbing from One Yorkshire, a renewed period of deadlock on devolution to the region now looks the most likely outcome.

The only part of the region so far to secure a devolution deal to take over powers and money from the Government is South Yorkshire through the Sheffield City Region agreement.

However it has been plagued by problems and two of the four South Yorkshire authorities, Barnsley and Doncaster, have effectively withdrawn their support.

Barnsley and Doncaster were among the 17 backers of the One Yorkshire plan which was seen as the best hope for ending the long-running paralysis in Yorkshire's efforts to take more control over its own affairs while regions including Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Liverpool and Tees Valley have agreed devolution deals with the Government and elected new metro-mayors

But the Government is insisting the Sheffield City Region deal goes ahead, with the election of a metro-mayor in May 2018, and has warned councils in the rest of the region it will not listen to any devolution proposals that include South Yorkshire councils.

In the new letter, the Conservative leaders say it is "clear" that "any proposal for a Yorkshire-wide deal to include any of the four councils in the Sheffield City Region devolution deal will not receive government support as it has already negotiated terms and passed legislation to allow this to proceed".

It continues: "We, therefore, confirm our commitment to developing firm proposals for a Greater Yorkshire Deal to include North and West Yorkshire, the East Riding and Hull and call on all local authority leaders within these areas to work constructively towards an agreement at the earliest possible opportunity."

The signatories are:

Councillor Carl Les, Leader, North Yorkshire County Council

Councillor David Carr, Leader, City of York Council

Councillor Luke Ives, Joint Leader of the Conservative Group, Ryedale District Council

Councillor Derek Bastiman, Leader, Scarborough Borough Council

Councillor Richard Cooper, Leader, Harrogate Borough Council

Councillor Mark Robson, Leader, Hambleton District Council

Councillor Mark Crane, Leader, Selby District Council