Dan Jarvis: Put Yorkshire before council fiefdoms as MP seizes the devolution initiative

Dan Jarvis MP is pushing for Yorkshire to reach a consensus on devolution.
Dan Jarvis MP is pushing for Yorkshire to reach a consensus on devolution.
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POLITICIANS owe it to Yorkshire voters to put people before personal fiefdoms and the merits of a countywide mayor, a leading MP says today.

Labour’s Dan Jarvis will spend the coming weeks exploring if a consensus can be reached to end the region’s devolution deadlock.

Though open-minded on the issue, the widely-respected Barnsley Central MP believes residents will be envious at the power, and influence, wielded by the metro mayors due to be elected this May across the Pennines in Greater Manchester and Liverpool as well as other major cities.

Mr Jarvis says the postponement of the planned mayoral election in South Yorkshire, and neighbouring areas, following a legal challenge provides a final chance to reappraise the issue – and how to maximise the whole county’s future prospects.

Previously supportive of the Sheffield city-region having its own leadership model, he told The Yorkshire Post in an exclusive interview that a fresh approach is required.

“We need to use this time wisely to think what about what is the best model of devolved government for the Yorkshire area,” he said. “There needs to be a debate about whether there’s a solution that brings the whole region together.

“The benefit of that is it gives us scale and mass. The downside is it is a vast geographical area and it would require very strong leadership to draw it all together. We need to put aside parochial political considerations. This can’t be about fiefdoms. It has to be about the best possible solution...it’s important to listen to what people say.”

From his own experiences, Mr Jarvis is acutely aware of devolution’s divisiveness and accepts that separate arrangements for each city-region might still be the way forward. “Even in South Yorkshire where Labour run the local authorities, we have not been able to reach an agreement,” he noted. “It follows that it will be more difficult over a wider area with a broader range of political groupings, but the public expect us to rise above that.

“It’s not about political fiefdoms or the interests of individuals...it’s about deciding how Yorkshire and the Humber is better served so it is in the strongest position of competing not just in a national market but an international market.

“Although it is a vast area, we have the strongest brand. The Yorkshire brand is a global one. With the right leadership, it could be drawn together, but it needs to be established that it is in our best interests.”

Mr Jarvis says an election could be held in May 2018 if a consensus is reached. Warning that time is of the essence, he said: “If we fall further back on that, it all comes at a cost because our neighbours will have people in position who are providing that voice on a national and international stage.

“There also needs to be clarity about the role of mayor and their responsibilities, what powers they have, how they execute the powers and how they are held accountable. Are they supported by a cabinet of city-region leaders or are they allowed to form their own cabinet. If we are going down a Yorkshire-wide model, how should it work?”

Though Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy rejected the so-called ‘One Yorkshire’ concept, influential business leaders favour this approach. And Mr Jarvis played down the Minister’s remarks. “It’s not insurmountable,” he added. “That shouldn’t be a red line. We all have a responsibility to try and work towards the best possible deal here. That’s what the public expects.”