Devolution in North Yorkshire and the City of York will be very different - Greg Clark

Yorkshire Day 2022 is a historic one. Today, under the White Rose flag, in York we are signing a deal between the Government and the local councils of North Yorkshire and the City of York that will transfer many decisions about the future of the area to be taken in Yorkshire, not in London.

It will mean that over the next 30 years £540m will be transferred from Westminster and Whitehall to invest in Yorkshire and invested according to what Yorkshire people, not London people, want.

And knowing that this half a billion pounds is available, UK businesses and overseas investors will be able themselves to invest in the area, confident that they will be supported in having things like more of the right infrastructure and skills.

So the devolved funds will be multiplied by many times over by new business investment creating jobs and prosperity.

Purple moorland heather in the North York Moors National Park. Picture: Gary Longbottom.

It means a lot to me personally to be signing this deal today. I have always been proud that my birth certificate records that I was born in the North Riding of Yorkshire.

Although Middlesbrough, where I was born, and South Bank, where I went to school, were subsequently moved outside the modern council boundary of North Yorkshire – and therefore this deal – I still feel a strong drive to see this historic area succeed.

Indeed, my experience of growing up on Teesside – where my family still live – was what led to the devolution programme we launched 10 years ago.

I always felt that as, over the course of half a century, as more decisions about our area were moved from being taken on the banks of the Tees to the banks of the Thames, our area was diminished as a result.

That was true of other areas too, and I imagine that in York and North Yorkshire it has also been robustly felt over the years that London doesn’t know best.

Now we can turn that round. The devolution deal in the Tees Valley, and the leadership of mayor Ben Houchen, has given tremendous forward momentum to Teesside.

The devolution deals in South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire are more recent and were difficult for everyone to agree on, but I hope they will mature into powerful engines of prosperity.

We have unfinished business in the East Riding and Hull, and I hope we can make rapid progress on devolution there.

But today’s deal with York and North Yorkshire is particularly special because it brings together a profoundly rural county with important cities like York and big towns like Harrogate, Northallerton and Scarborough and others.

What is done will be different from anywhere else because York and North Yorkshire is very different from anywhere else.

There’s nowhere like it. That’s the point. How could uniform policies set in London possibly do justice to what people want from the Moors to the Dales, from the Vale of York to the Heritage Coast, from Selby to Stokesley?

No-one who doesn’t live here can truly understand this glorious place with some of the most distinctive and strongest communities on earth.

That’s why when people talk about levelling up, I say that it has to be locally-led.

Creating opportunities and driving prosperity needs local knowledge and local leadership.

I hope and intend that this deal will be just the beginning.

As the record and influence of the new mayor and their councils increases, they should demand – and get – more powers and more budgets devolved from London.

The mayor will be a big, influential and well-known figure not just in Yorkshire but in Downing Street.

For all the steely tenacity of Yorkshire folk, in my experience, they can sometimes – perhaps deriving from the quiet satisfaction that comes from living in such an exceptional area – be less assertive than other, more noisy, places.

This deal puts York and North Yorkshire firmly on the top table. I hope that your leaders will make use of your strengthened national clout – as well as your increased power locally – to make the northern swathe of God’s Own Country even more than ever a place to be invested in, visited and cherished.

So today is just the beginning, but I couldn’t be more thrilled to be signing, on behalf of the Government, this agreement.

- Greg Clark has served as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities since July 7. He has served as MP for Tunbridge Wells since 2005. He was formerly chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee.