THE RELUCTANCE of Ministers to progress the One Yorkshire devolution deal is even more disappointing when it meets the Treasury’s own tests that Robert Jenrick, the Exchequer Secretary, confirmed to Parliament.
He said in response to Keighley MP John Grogan that the Government would consider any proposal where there was a clear plan for “a clearly defined economic geography” and also economic growth.
First the geography. Eighteen out of 20 councils back countywide devolution. Even though Sheffield and Rotherham don’t, South Yorkshire’s mayor is on board – and a community poll held in Barnsley and Doncaster showed a groundswell of public support.
Now growth. New research shows that devolution could be worth up to £30bn a year to Yorkshire if the county’s exports – and business opportunities – become comparable to the rest of the country. With senior business leaders backing One Yorkshire, the Government should be striving to harness this county’s ambitions, and unity, rather demanding the full implementation of Sheffield City Region’s devolution arrangements before returning to the issue.
Once again, Mr Jenrick’s low-key response, on behalf of Chancellor Philip Hammond, was another missed opportunity towards the end of a difficult political year which, for many, will be defined by the continuing chaos on region’s railways and indifference towards the Northern Powerhouse agenda.
When the relevant Cabinet minister – James Brokenshire – has still to visit Yorkshire more than six months after his appointment, this snub, coupled with Mr Jenrick’s unhelpful response, shows that the blame for this impasse clearly rests with an intransigent Government at odds with the county’s political, business and civic leaders. That will not do.