SPEAKING in Leeds at yesterday’s Northern Summit, staged by the think tank IPPR North and the Royal Town Planning Institute, Lord Heseltine made a compelling case for Yorkshire to embrace the Northern Powerhouse agenda.
The Conservative peer said it was time for the county to pull together and seize the initiative over devolution. It’s a message our region’s leaders should pay heed to given his proven track record of setting up corporations which started the revival of cities like Liverpool.
Lord Heseltine is a pioneer of regeneration and a champion for urban renewal in the North. He understands, too, that devolved power would not only create opportunities in Yorkshire’s big cities and leafy villages, but would also open the door to lucrative global export markets.
For this to happen it is crucial that councils in West, North and East Yorkshire not only join forces, but also agree an effective leadership structure – headed by a Boris Johnson-style elected mayor – which delivers results.
Harnessed properly the “Yorkshire” brand is a powerful one but with Manchester, and the rest of the North, set to have the type of freedoms enjoyed by London, Scotland and Wales, we are now the only region not to reach a settlement after councils in Sheffield and South Yorkshire opted to team up with their counterparts in North Nottinghamshire and North Derbyshire.
The point of yesterday’s conference was to get the North working together, rather than have different areas competing against one another – which must be the way forward. But the longer we dither, the greater the chance of our rivals forging ahead. Our politicians and business leaders need to follow Lord Heseltine’s sage advice, because the need for Yorkshire to work together on a range of issues that affect us all has never been greater.