The Government is terrified of a devolution deal for Yorkshire which could turn the county into “England’s Catalonia”, a meeting has been told.
The claim was made as councillors in Leeds demanded that central government listens to plans for a One Yorkshire deal which could theoretically see an elected mayor take responsibility for the entire county.
The plan has been backed by 18 council leaders in the region, but at a meeting in Leeds councillors claimed that the Government was still not interested in the idea. Morley Borough Independents group member Tom Leadley compared One Yorkshire with independence plans which have triggered a political crisis in Spain.
He said: “Whitehall and Westminster must be terrified of One Yorkshire, terrified that it might work, terrified that it might be big enough and coherent enough. Terrified that it could become England’s Catalonia.
“Many in Westminster despise local government and want to cripple it with arbitrary regulation and unreasonable monetary restriction.”
Around a million people marched in Barcelona on Tuesday to show support for independence after Catalonia’s failed attempt to break away from Spain last October.
At the meeting in Leeds, frustration was voiced that the council had not been offered a meeting with the Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire.
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake told the meeting: “I am very disappointed that I have to inform the council that we still haven’t been offered the courtesy of a meeting with the new secretary of state James Brokenshire.
“But we are moving forward at a pace to try to develop the economic case for One Yorkshire and conversations are taking place.” Leader of the Leeds City Council Conservatives Andrew Carter said he was concerned that it was unlikely the devolution issue would be settled before the next general election.”
Coun Carter told the meeting: “In the meantime I want to be sure that we can get as much devolution, funds and responsibility as possible for what we already have.
I am concerned that the obsession with what some see as the ultimate goal detracts us from the real issue of getting our fair share of what is on the table now, and we are not disadvantaged.
“I have a strong belief that the issue of devolution will run up to and beyond the next general election.”
The deadlock over Yorkshire devolution means Dan Jarvis MP, who was elected as the first Sheffield City Region (SCR) Mayor in June, has not been able to take the reins because of disagreements between council leaders in Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham. Sheffield and Rotherham councils are happy with a Sheffield City Region Mayor but Doncaster and Barnsley backed One Yorkshire.
All four South Yorkshire leaders first signed the SCR devolution deal in 2015 but Doncaster and Barnsley did a U-turn.
Mr Jarvis has said he wants to get the South Yorkshire deal signed and pursue a wider county deal with the rest of Yorkshire by 2020.
Mr Brokenshire wrote to councils to say the Government is “not prepared” to discuss One Yorkshire if it includes any of the authorities which make up Sheffield City Region.