A UNITED Yorkshire has the capacity to take on the world. That was one of the key messages that emerged from the launch event for A Manifesto for Yorkshire yesterday as business people and politicians debated the region’s future.
After a week which saw Chancellor George Osborne back Manchester’s economic ambitions with greater powers over its own affairs there was anxiety that Yorkshire is being left behind.
But the event also heard calls for this region to broaden its horizons and focus on competing on the world stage.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said there were lessons to be learned from Yorkshire’s hosting of the Tour de France last year.
“I don’t know of anything that has united Yorkshire like the Tour de France did and I think there is a clue there for us going forwards.
“If we unite we can take on the rest of the world, it’s not about the competition with the rest of the UK.
“We did world class then, we did a sporting event better than any sporting event has ever been done anywhere in the world.”
The theme was taken up by Deborah Copeland, from Leeds and Partners.
She said: “I think we need to stop looking over our shoulder at Manchester the whole time and take a much more national and international view and to our role in that.
“We have our own distinct strengths. We need to work with Manchester and Liverpool and Hull when the time is right but also have the strength of character not to try and copy Manchester.”
The event heard calls for Yorkshire to raise its game in the way it deals with Whitehall to make sure the Government which takes office in May supports its economic plans and is fair in the way it funds services in the region.
Ajaz Ahmed, founder of Legal365.com, said: “As you go around the country and look at the other regions I think they are doing a better job of shouting about what they want and with the exception of Gary [Verity] we are not doing a very good job of selling ourselves to the rest of the country and the Government.”
A Manifesto for Yorkshire calls for a process of “devolution on demand” to give the region the chance to take more control over key decisions and how taxes are spent.
That sparked a debate over whether shifting power to the region should also involve changing the way it is run, potentially through the introduction of directly elected mayors as favoured by the Conservatives.
Calderdale Council leader Stephen Baines said he was “totally against elected mayors” in principle but it was currently “the only game in town” to getting extra money and the power to decide where it is spent from the Government.
North Yorkshire County Council leader John Weighell said: “What I don’t want is a massive amount of devolution to Yorkshire.
“What I want is fairness for Yorkshire and that’s what Yorkshire hasn’t had in the past.
“As a local government person representing the biggest single geographic county in the country I know the rural areas of this region have been very much disadvantaged by successive governments’ funding over very many years.”
IN FULL: OUR YORKSHIRE MANIFESTO...