THE PRESIDENT of the CBI made a profound point about One Yorkshire devolution – and the Government’s reluctance to embrace the principle – during a keynote speech in Sheffield last night.
“The question I’m now hearing is – if that wasn’t good enough, what is?” said John Allan as he effectively put James Brokenshire, the Communities Secretary, on the spot over the issue.
A week after Mr Brokenshire met local leaders at Fountains Abbey for courteous talks about the devolution deadlock, Mr Allan’s question is a legitimate one as the power struggle between Whitehall and Yorkshire continues.
As he said, Yorkshire’s political, business and civic leaders appear to have been left “stymied” by the Government’s insistence that devolution should only take place on its terms – a stance that is perturbing other regions according to the CBI boss.
As such, this newspaper hopes that the Minister will accept the CBI’s criticism in the constructive spirit in which it was intended – and provide a detailed critique of the One Yorkshire blueprint.
For, when Mr Brokenshire and his advisers go through the document, and recognise that a once-in-a-generation opportunity exists to boost the Yorkshire economy by up to £30bn a year, there are likely to be many areas of unanimity which could, in turn, be the starting point for an interim devolution deal.
And the important of local, regional and national politicians working alongside business leaders and organisations is further highlighted by Mr Allan’s call to arms over transport investment and how both Northern Powerhouse Rail – and HS2 – are integral to longer-term plans to boost productivity here.
As he said: “We must get Northern Powerhouse Rail out of the sidings. Get it built. The North needs it. Our economy needs it and the country needs it.” On this, Mr Allan will find no disagreement here.