The bubbling row over how Yorkshire will be run in the future burst into the open tonight as a Labour council leader accused Conservative MPs of blocking a West Yorkshire devolution deal for narrow political reasons.
Bradford Council leader David Green’s decision to bring the clash into the public domain is a sign of the frustration at the failure to agree a deal before next week’s Budget and the prospect of devolution being off the table until 2020 if an agreement is not reached in the coming days.
Coun Green laid the blame for the lack of agreement over the so-called Leeds City Region deal firmly at the door of Conservative MPs but they hit back insisting Labour council leaders were engaged in a “power grab”.
The Leeds City Region deal would see powers in areas such as transport and skills transferred from Whitehall to West Yorkshire councils and potentially some of their neighbours. The powers would be wielded by a committee of council leaders joined by a new elected mayor for the area.
Many Conservative MPs want a wider Greater Yorkshire devolution deal covering the whole of West, North and East Yorkshire and are understood to be pressing Chancellor George Osborne not to go-ahead with the Leeds City Region option.
But some Leeds City Region backers believe the MPs’ real reason for opposing is based on the likelihood of the area choosing a Labour mayor.
Writing for The Yorkshire Post website Coun Green said: “Our efforts to secure a deal have been hampered by Tory MPs, some of whom don’t want any devolution and some of whom wish to gerrymander boundaries for political self interest over economic growth.
“We have also faced opposition from many Tory councillors and councils who are more concerned about the future of their power base than the advantages that a proper devolution deal can bring to their residents.”
Leeds City Region supporters believe with the first metro mayor elections due to be held in 2017, a failure to reach agreement in the coming days will rule out a deal until the next round expected in 2020.
South Yorkshire along with a host of other areas across the North that have agreed devolution deals with the Chancellor will hold mayoral elections next year.
Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker, who favours the Greater Yorkshire idea, said: “They haven’t consulted with anybody except Labour councillors. I know for a fact they haven’t consulted Conservative group in West Yorkshire.”
Referring to West Yorkshire council leaders, Mr Whittaker added: “To say it is Conservative MPs holding it up is absolute nonsense. This is a pure power grab by Box, Green, Swift and the rest of them. What we want is what is best for the whole of Yorkshire. What they are trying to do is put parts of Yorkshire out on a limb by themselves.”
Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney insisted he was focused on making the “positive” case for a Greater Yorkshire approach that included areas like Hull, East Yorkshire and York.
He said: “The Leeds City Region, the local enterprise partnership, has been fantastically successful and they can continue all the excellent work they do and brings huge economic benefit. It’s about spreading that success over the whole of the Greater Yorkshire area.
“Its not about saying something wouldn’t work, it is what is the best positive option moving forward.”