THE ARCHBISHOP of York’s response was characteristically prescient after Communities Secretary James Brokenshire rebuffed the One Yorkshire devolution deal. “What are they afraid of? Better together!” tweeted Dr John Sentamu from India where he is undertaking official duties.
Challenging the Cabinet Minister to “listen to Yorkshire’s united voice”, and appealing to Yorkshire people to “stand firm” against “those who would divide us”, the Archbishop’s steadfast support is reassuring after this week’s setback.
And the short-sightedness of Mr Brokenshire, who has only paid one visit to Yorkshire in an official capacity, is all the more regrettable because of its central contradictions.
He is a senior member of the Government committed to implementing “the will of the people” over Brexit. Despite Hambleton Council having second thoughts, why is he ignoring the “will” of 17 local councils, Sheffield City Region’s mayor and business organisations committed to One Yorkshire? The CBI, for one, has reaffirmed its support.
He heads the Whitehall ministry tasked with overseeing local decision-making. Why, then, is the Minister only allowing devolution to progress on terms which appear increasingly obtuse?
He is also part of a Tory-led administration which is supposedly committed to closing the North-South divide. Why, therefore, is a proposal being rejected when it could generate up to £30bn a year for the regional and national economy?
One Yorkshire proponents are right to follow Dr Sentamu’s lead. Questions about this region’s future governance and growth will remain long after Mr Brokenshire has left office and his opposition, some might say obstinacy, should not be allowed to become insurmountable when the future of over five million people is at stake.
Yet, rather than policy-making by press release, the means by which the Communities Secretary announced his latest decision, he should accept One Yorkshire’s invitation for personal dialogue. After all, a way forward can only be found once the answer to the Archbishop’s question is clearer – just what are Ministers afraid of?