From: Elizabeth Peacock, Former Batley and Spen MP.
I AM becoming increasingly concerned that Yorkshire is going to lose out in the great George Osborne devolution project to establish the “Northern Powerhouse” which is planned to eliminate the historic North/South divide, with an elected powerful Mayor.
Sheffield and Manchester, having already accepted the idea of a Mayor, are now in pole position allowing them, in their usual efficient manner, to plan the use of their expected devolution powers and the associated finance.
As yet, there seems to be no agreement on how the major part of Yorkshire will be structured within the Northern Powerhouse and this is beginning to make us look inefficient and out of step by the rest of Britain.
In Yorkshire, we have a reputation of independence of thought and deed and we also have a reputation of being “bloody-minded”, even with each other which has obviously come to the surface on this issue.
There appears to be a consensus that we need a Greater Yorkshire structure, with a Mayor bringing together the West Yorkshire authorities with York and Hull and North and East Yorkshire. This combination would offer the optimum solution with an attractive industrial and commercial balance and a similar balance of political history. Indeed a Greater Yorkshire would have a better profile than Scotland and would be equivalent or better than several countries within the European Union.
The big attraction of a Greater Yorkshire is the fact that “Yorkshire” would be the brand under which we could sell the county, its products and services. The idea of a Leeds City Region option has none of these attributes and would not be acceptable to many people in the Greater Yorkshire area.
However, the burning question is why are we in this unacceptable position? The answer appears to be that in true Yorkshire style some of our local authority leaders are being “bloody-minded” and short-sighted in allowing Manchester and Sheffield to take the lead.
There is a suspicion that some of the leaders are reluctant to hand over their fiefdoms and powers. Equally there is a suspicion that the lack of progress is due to a possible loss of political control which appears to some to be more important than new finance and local decision-making. If the delay is due to such archaic thinking, Yorkshire will not forgive those involved. The future of our great county is bigger than the future of any individual.