Mark Casci: What Yorkshire’s economy needs in 2019

Eighteen of the region's 20 council leaders and metro mayor Dan Jarvis back a One Yorkshire devolution deal.
Eighteen of the region's 20 council leaders and metro mayor Dan Jarvis back a One Yorkshire devolution deal.
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2019 is set to be a momentous one for Yorkshire and the UK.

In theory we should no longer be a member of the European Union when we wake up on March 30 this year.

However the deal struck by Theresa May has little support in Parliament, a state-of-play that shows little sign of altering any time soon with the so-called Meaningful Vote on the terms of the deal set to be voted upon at some stage in the week of January 14.

If it is rejected we are faced with the potential of leaving with no deal or somehow delaying our exit from the EU, something which a large amount of the population of this country will find unconscionable.

The whole thing has been a mess, one which has left us a divided nation. And for that reason, I intend to mention it no further in this, my first column of the year.

Instead let us turn to what Yorkshire needs in 2019. Fear not this is not set to be a fantasy wish list but rather a series of achievable goals that can comfortably be attained with the appropriate leadership and will.

A Northern Rail train

A Northern Rail train

This year Government must commit in full to the vital transport infrastructure upgrades we need.

Underperforming franchises such as Northern and TransPennine must be taken to task in the strongest possible terms and told to either massively up their game or be replaced. Similarly Network Rail must urgently review its practices to ensure more prompt arrival and departure times.

The east to west rail connectivity and speed remains a national disgrace. Full and not partial electrification of the route must be rolled out, and for freight as well as passenger trains.

And the hugely exciting opportunity that is Northern Powerhouse Rail must be given the full backing of Government to make the North a truly interconnected economic entity.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling visiting MP Philip Davies: The visit is regarding discussions about the Shipley Eastern Bypass.'17 November 2017.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling visiting MP Philip Davies: The visit is regarding discussions about the Shipley Eastern Bypass.'17 November 2017. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has had a torrid time in his office and seemingly lurches from one blunder to another. The only way he can salvage his reputation and career is to keep the promises he made in the 2017 general election campaign. He will only be protected on high from guardian angel PM for so long. Backing the above improvements unequivocally could just be his salvation.

Skills remain an issue for many of our top employers. Yorkshire is home to some of the finest cities, towns and countryside in Europe.

However recruiting and retaining staff remains troublesome for many.

The key to this is devolution. Progress has been made but too slowly. Leaders of both main parties at a local level must produce a result in 2019 for the whole region.

No deal Brexit will be overwhelmingly negative, think tank warns

No deal Brexit will be overwhelmingly negative, think tank warns

I have long argued in favour of a mayor for the whole of Yorkshire as I truly believe it in my heart to be the most exciting opportunity for this region in my lifetime.

I am told privately some eminently capable and qualified individuals are interested in running were such a role to become available.

However I also live in the real world and believe that any deal is better than no deal at all.

This must be the year where this issue is settled.

It is set to be a memorable year.

Three of the region’s great institutions in the shape of Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate, the Bayford Group and Leeds United will all mark their centennials this year.

OPTIMISTIC: Leeds United midfielder, Adam Forshaw.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson

OPTIMISTIC: Leeds United midfielder, Adam Forshaw. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

The latter currently stand as good a chance of promotion to the top flight of English football than they have in many years.

I have masses of respect for the owner, manager and players at Huddersfield Town who are currently flying the Yorkshire flag in the Premier League.

Sheffield United and Hull City have both been there too.

But Leeds in EPL would be a gamechanger. With Channel 4 on its way to the region this could be Yorkshire’s year if we play our cards right, and speak with one voice.

Here’s to making it happen.