EARLY evidence suggests that this could be a decade of devolution for Yorkshire. Ministers have already struck a deal with Sheffield City Region leaders.
A separate agreement for Leeds and West Yorkshire is expected to be unveiled in Chancellor Sajid Javid’s forthcoming Budget after a positive conclusion to yesterday’s talks with Treasury Minister Simon Clarke. And a joint deal for North and East Yorkshire is on the cards.
Yet, while Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry accepted the importance of the rural economy during his interview with The Yorkshire Post earlier this month, there are still legitimate concerns, as the RSA think-tank sets out today, at the extent to which smaller towns, and countryside communities, are being marginalised by the political emphasis on city-regions.
It would be remiss of Ministers not to recognise the legitimacy of this concern. It would also be disingenuous of the Government if politicians thought that a devolution deal for the East and North Ridings would absolve Defra, the Environment Agency and other bodies of responsibility for issues like coastal erosion and flood defences that are causing so much angst to communities here.
Quite the opposite. These are national challenges which demand national solutions – it is unrealistic to expect cash-strapped councils to foot the bill – and adds both credence, and urgency, to The Yorkshire Post’s call for Boris Johnson to appoint a dedicated Minister for the Coast and Floods in his post-Brexit reshuffle. This will provide a policy focus, and degree of accountability, which does not exist at present.