Political leaders fighting for a ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution deal today challenged the Government to “match our ambition” after a senior Tory Minister accused them of lacking detail in their plans for a region-wide agreement.
Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry told The Yorkshire Post that local authorities should concentrate on implementing the more limited transfer of power to the Sheffield City Region before a wider devolution deal is considered. He said the One Yorkshire plan, signed by 18 of the region’s 20 council leaders in March, “did not have the detail” expected in a bid for devolution, and that any discussions about a regional deal were based on the full implementation of the South Yorkshire agreement.
“Discussions to unravel the existing devolution deal in South Yorkshire shouldn’t take place until that devolution deal is fully implemented,” Mr Berry said. “The Government remains open to any ground-up proposals from the rest of Yorkshire and we remain open to proposals that come forward.”
He added: “As someone who has lived in Sheffield for three years, I know that additional Government funding to support business, to create new homes, to improve transport infrastructure in the boroughs of South Yorkshire in the Sheffield City Region deal, is something that they shouldn’t have to wait for.”
Last week Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis admitted that “not enough progress” had been made on devolution since he took on the role in May.
The political leaders signed up to One Yorkshire, who include Leeds leader Coun Judith Blake, Coun Carl Les of North Yorkshire County Council and Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones, said in a statement they were ready to “work at pace” to reach an agreement that would allow a Yorkshire Mayor to be elected in 2020.
“The Minister wants ground-up devolution proposals and in the One Yorkshire submission, supported by 18 council leaders and the Sheffield City Region Mayor, that is exactly what we have delivered,” it read.
“We need the Government to respond positively and match our ambition to deliver on that timetable. We have offered to meet Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire at any time.
“We are working on developing the details of our proposal, including further evidence for the economic case supporting One Yorkshire which is backed by business, and we have invited Government officials to be part of that process.”
It said the Government’s support was “essential” to delivering the Sheffield City Region devolution deal whilst assuring those who want to join One Yorkshire that option will be available to them as early as 2020.
It added: “We have developed a clear and united vision for One Yorkshire devolution and we need the Government to help us make swift progress.”
Labour MP for Keighley, John Grogan, accused Mr Berry of being “one of the main stumbling blocks to progress on Yorkshire devolution”.
He said: “It is quite remarkable that he is unwilling to sit down with 18 council leaders from the nation’s biggest county on a cross-party basis to hammer out a solution. This seems to be his fixed position no matter how many detailed documents are sent to him.”
He added: “The Treasury, and in particular the Chancellor, have been much more positive in their comments. In the end, Jake is a relatively junior minister and our task is to find ways to persuade more experienced and senior ministers to move things forward.”