NORTHERN POWERHOUSE Minister Andrew Percy has warned council leaders the Government will not agree to plans for a Yorkshire elected mayor which he branded a “distraction”.
Mr Percy told the region’s councils to focus on delivering the existing devolution deal covering South Yorkshire and reaching agreement on how new powers should also be given to West, North and East Yorkshire.
In a decisive intervention in the wrangling over Yorkshire devolution, Mr Percy said the emerging proposal to create a single elected mayor for the whole region would not be possible under current law, a situation the Government was not prepared to change.
And in a stark warning to South Yorkshire council leaders he said their Sheffield City Region deal, agreed in 2015, would be taken off the table unless progress is made.
The Sheffield City Region deal saw South Yorkshire, Chesterfield and Bassetlaw secure £900m and new powers from Whitehall in areas such as transport and skills in return for creating a mayor for the area.
However, following a legal ruling and amid tensions between South Yorkshire council leaders the planned election of the mayor in May was recently delayed for a year.
Mr Percy, the MP for Brigg and Goole, told The Yorkshire Post: “The Government is committed to South Yorkshire, we want to see South Yorkshire happen and I would urge leaders in South Yorkshire not to walk away because they will be in a position like the North-East where we take the proposal off the table because they have rejected it.
“That deal is £1bn of new money and powers that won’t be coming to South Yorkshire.”
When the delay was announced, two South Yorkshire councils - Doncaster and Barnsley - along with authorities in West and North Yorkshire expressed interest in exploring the alternative idea of striking a devolution deal for the whole region under a single mayor,
West, North and East Yorkshire councils have so far been unable to reach their own agreements on devolution amid disputes over the areas they should cover.
Supporters of the emerging ‘One Yorkshire’ proposal have suggested it could solve the problems facing South Yorkshire and end the deadlock in the rest of the region.
But Mr Percy was doubtful the plan would speed up economic growth and, critically, insisted ”it is very clear it is not legally possible”.
Mr Percy added: “Asking us to do things that are not legally possible are a distraction that risks pushing Yorkshire further back.
“What we should be doing is concentrating on getting South Yorkshire over the line. Then it is up to East, West and North Yorkshire to come up with a solution that is within the law and the framework of devolution.”
Mr Percy said changing the law to allow a Yorkshire agreement could lead to devolution deals in other parts of the country “crashing down”.