A DEVOLUTION deal for the whole of Yorkshire would secure its position as the “greatest county of them all” it is claimed today.
Doncaster executive mayor Ros Jones and Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton set out why they are exploring the idea of a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal, including an elected Yorkshire mayor, rather than pressing ahead with their existing Sheffield City Region agreement.
The Yorkshire Post has this week written to all the region’s MPs asking them to support the discussions around devolution amid growing belief among a number of senior council figures that a way can now be found out of the longrunning deadlock on the issue.
Supporters of the so-called One Yorkshire plan believe they now have the backing in principle of 17 councils in the region including Barnsley and Doncaster.
But Rotherham and Sheffield continue to back the Sheffield City Region deal South Yorkshire councils agreed with the Government in 2015 which included the promise of new powers and £30m extra funding a year.
Last month, Barnsley and Doncaster said they wanted to join other councils in Yorkshire to explore a region-wide devolution agreement rather than pressing ahead with the Sheffield City Region arrangement.
Writing in The Yorkshire Post today, Coun Houghton and Mayor Jones say: “As the leaders of Doncaster and Barnsley, we have one only objective - to do the best for our towns, more than half a million local residents and our growing business communities.”
They continue: “So whilst Barnsley and Doncaster will not turn its back on our neighbours in the Sheffield City Region, we are also clear that we do aspire to something bigger if it is possible.
“That is a One Yorkshire devolution solution, which puts Yorkshire at the heart of local and national decision making, and secures our future as the greatest county of them all.”
The Government began negotiating agreements to give areas more control over their own affairs - known as devolution deals - three years ago.
Councils were invited to join together and submit proposals for new metro-mayors who could take over powers and money from Whitehall.
The West Midlands, Liverpool City Region, West of England, Tees Valley and Greater Manchester elected new metro-mayors in May this year wielding powers in areas such as transport, skills and economic development and money transferred from London.
But disagreement between council leaders, MPs and ministers over the best way to proceed in Yorkshire has left this region lagging behind.
The Sheffield City Region deal, struck with George Osborne two years ago, represented a breakthrough and should have seen the area’s mayor elected alongside those of other regions in May this year.
But a legal challenge from Derbyshire County Council led to the postponement of the election until 2018.
The withdrawal of Bassetlaw and Chesterfield dealt the agreement a further blow and last month Barnsley and Doncaster said they wanted to explore the option of joining with the rest of the region under the emerging One Yorkshire proposal.
On Yorkshire Day, following a meeting of council leaders from every authority except Rotherham, Sheffield and Wakefield, a joint statement was issued declaring their intention to form a ‘coalition of the willing’ which would pursue “a single ambitious devolution deal”.
It is understood council leaders are due to meet again towards the end of the this month to discuss next steps and informal discussions are taking place with the Government.