Leading metro mayors urge against 'forcing' illogical devolution deals

Two of the country's most high profile metro mayors have cautioned Yorkshire politicians against 'forcing' a devolution deal that is not a 'natural' economic or cultural fit.

There is growing momentum behind the One Yorkshire deal

Speaking at a fringe event in Manchester, the West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchon argued that for devolution to succeed it must have an “economic logic”.

Mayor Houchon also warned that Yorkshire is being "left behind" by the completion of deals in other parts of the country.

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He called for the region's political and business leaders to "get round the table" and "sort it out".

The mayors's comments come amid ongoing uncertainty over the future of the South Yorkshire agreement, after Doncaster and Barnsley councils pulled their support.

Momentum is now growing behind a One Yorkshire deal that would bring together councils across all four Yorkshire counties.

However, there is little backing for the proposals from Government, with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid urging South Yorkshire leaders to re-unite behind their existing offer.

This has raised the possibility that elections for a Sheffield City Region mayor will still go ahead next year but with no new powers or funding for the area.

Pressed for their take on the situation, both Mr Streeter and Mr Houchon told the Yorkshire Post that it it up to each individual region to determine the most effective devolution model for its needs.

They also emphasised the role of businesses in securing a deal, calling on them to "speak up and not allow this to be a conversation for local government officers and... members of Parliament."

However, Mr Houchon went on to suggest Yorkshire leaders could struggle to cope with the diverse economic and social needs to the region if brought under one deal.

He told this paper: "It makes sense to get an economic area that fits together both from an economic perspective and a community perspective.

"County's are large things in themselves, but as soon as you start it out from an economic and community perspective, it becomes very difficult to hold them together.

"I think the people need to decide...is a one Yorkshire deal the right thing to do.

"Do the people of Sheffield have enough in common with the people of Richmond and North Allerton?... You don't necessarily, if you're from York, have the same affinity with people from Sheffield or Bradford."

Commenting on county deals more generally, Mr Streeter pointed out that a key part of the West Midlands settlement was proving "there was an economic logic to it".

"I wouldn't be forcing deals on places that aren't a natural economic area".