July 22: Yorkshire’s big conversation

THE debate as to whether Yorkshire should be led by a Boris Johnson-style mayor – launched by this newspaper at the weekend – has already ignited opinions.

Business leaders warn that although elected mayors may well be the key to successful devolution, the county’s diverse economies would make the task “unmanageable” if placed in the hands of a single individual.

Meanwhile, Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese today dismisses the notion that the landmark devolution deal agreed for Greater Manchester heralds a new era of transpennine rivalry and insists that Yorkshire should now get on board.

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There are no certainly shortage of viewpoints on the central question of what form of devolved government would best serve the needs of Yorkshire diverse cities, towns, rural and coastal areas.

This is exactly as it should be. It is imperative that this conversation takes place, one which allows everyone to have a say on this fundamental issue, so that a clear and well-defined vision can emerge of the leadership that is needed to take this region forward.

It is important too that Yorkshire is not forced into a political straitjacket of Whitehall’s making. If the region is to take a leading role in the much-vaunted Northen Powerhouse then it must do so on its own terms. After all, isn’t this the key tenet on which devolution is supposed to 
be based?

What is abundantly clear is that the status quo is no longer fit for purpose in a Britain that is evolving before our very eyes. With 54 MPs, 22 local council leaders, six MEPs and a complex network of other bodies across the region, Yorkshire’s voice has become diluted in the corridors of power.

The Yorkshire Post therefore urges its readers to join the debate and help set out the framework that will allow this remarkable region to flourish in the years and decades to come.

• Exodus to cities: Fears for rural communities

“ENGLAND is the country, and the country is England,” said then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in 1924. Yet the exodus from rural to urban areas, discernible over the course of many decades, has now arguably reached its high point.

Certainly the concept of city living has boomed in places such as Leeds and Sheffield, where young people are leading the move back into urban areas. The population of these two city centres have more than doubled in the course of a decade, with a near trebling in the number of residents aged between 22 and 29.

Yet while this influx offers welcome news for Yorkshire’s cities in their bid to become less sterile, more sociable places with better amenities, the knock-on effect for rural areas offers genuine cause for concern.

Lured away by big-city living and better-paying jobs, there is a clear need for action to address an issue threatening to make communities unsustainable over the long term. It is a trend that has the potential to decimate the rural economy, in the process undermining food production that so much of the country takes for granted.

Richmondshire District Council is approaching the end of a year-long drive to combat the exodus of young people by providing more affordable housing and job opportunities across vast swathes of the Yorkshire Dales. More rural authorities should now follow suit in an attempt to slow or even reverse this process.

As with so many issues, there is a need to strike the right balance between city and country in order that both can flourish. To do this, however, there must be sufficient incentives in place for young people to stay in the rural areas that generations of their family have called home – and to make it practicable for them to do so.

• Winning habits: Women’s team showing the way

FRESH from showing their male counterparts how to do it at the football World Cup, the nation’s women are once again leading by example as they seek to retain their version of the Ashes.

The England team are bidding for a third successive victory in the series, which is decided by points gleaned from a mixture of One Day Internationals, Twenty20 games and a solitary Test.

Their defence began successfully yesterday as they beat Australia by four wickets in the first limited overs game, with Yorkshire fast bowler Katherine Brunt very much to the fore.

They are unlikely to surrender this lead in as dismal a fashion as the men’s team managed at Lord’s. Indeed, given the women’s success in both football and cricket, it is tempting to wonder if they could remind the men how to go about winning games full stop.