Government ‘may be frightened of Yorkshire’s power after region-wide devolution deal’, says peer

Yorkshire's council leaders have submitted plans for how a region-wide devolution deal could work.
Yorkshire's council leaders have submitted plans for how a region-wide devolution deal could work.
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The Government may be resisting proposals for a One Yorkshire devolution deal because it “is frightened of Yorkshire and the power it would then have”, a peer suggested today.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Pinnock urged the Government to commission a polling company to find out what people in Yorkshire think about a region-wide devolution deal as she questioned a junior Minister in the Lords.

But responding to a question from another Yorkshire peer, fellow Lib Dem Lord Wallace of Saltaire, Minister Lord Bourne of Abersytwyth said the Government’s priority was implementing the more limited Sheffield City Region deal.

And he claimed that despite Yorkshire’s leaders submitting detailed documentation about the economic case for a region-wide deal and a proposed road map for how it could become a reality, that his department had yet to receive “a proposal” on the subject.

The submission earlier this month said handing over powers and resources to a Yorkshire mayoral combined authority could boost the economy by £30bn a year.

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Baroness Pinnock said: “There is amazing unity in Yorkshire, bit of a historic moment, that, and a great campaign run by the regional newspaper, The Yorkshire Post, gathered support for the One Yorkshire deal.

“If the Government is not prepared to consider a One Yorkshire solution, perhaps it’s a bit frightened of Yorkshire, and the power it would then have, if it is not prepared to think about that, would it not be worth the Government getting a polling company to find out what the people of Yorkshire think.

“I know what the answer would be, and maybe that is the best way to tell the Government. Would the Minister agree that’s a good idea?”

Lord Bourne replied: “We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves by having polling companies when we haven’t yet had a proposal. The policy is absolutely clear and hasn’t faltered, that in relation to devolution we must first have a proposal and there hasn’t been one.

“This cannot happen until the Sheffield City Region deal has been executed, which it hasn’t yet because there hasn’t been the consultation.”

Lord Wallace asked the Minister for assurances that the Government was “not using the reiteration of completing the Sheffield deal as a means of putting off coping with the proposal which the elected mayor for Sheffield strongly supports, that we should move on from there to a One Yorkshire solution”.

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He said: “Three years ago the last Prime Minister complained the people of Yorkshire didn’t seem to be able to agree on this, we have now agreed, all parties, business leaders of the region, trade unions of the region, leaders of local councils from all parties.

“The alternative which the Government still seems to prefer, which is three city regions and the rest of North Yorkshire left out as the residue, is more expensive and less efficient.”

Lord Bourne replied: “There has now been not a proposal but detailed information sent to the Secretary of State. He will respond, it would be wrong of me to do that, even if I were in a position to do so, which I am not.”