THE goodwill that was supposed to be generated by Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry’s week-long tour of the region has immediately been undone by his disingenuous comments about the One Yorkshire deal.
So much for the Minister promising to listen and learn. For, by accusing local leaders here of failing to put together a sufficiently detailed blueprint, Mr Berry gives further credence to all those who believe that he is the roadblock to reform.
Not only have 18 out of Yorkshire’s 20 councils, plus newly-elected Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis, backed the proposition, but they have, on repeated occasions, answered every question posed by a Government committed to moving the goalposts – and little else – when it comes to securing Yorkshire’s future.
For the Minister’s benefit, the issue is not, as he contends, the implementation of the South Yorkshire devolution deal. This is a smokescreen after residents elected a mayor in Mr Jarvis who is committed to making the role redundant because he believes greater benefits can be accrued for Sheffield City Region, and the rest of the region, if the county pulls together as one.
And Mr Jarvis is not alone. He was amongst 100 like-minded political, business and civic leaders who came together at Bishopthorpe Palace, the Archbishop of York’s official residence, on Yorkshire Day to reiterate their view that a countywide mayor can bring clear focus, and leadership, to key issues like infrastructure, skills and Brexit so every economic opportunity is exploited.
What a shame Mr Berry was not there. Such a gathering would have been unthinkable a year ago and leaders were united in their belief that their model is more likely to deliver the prosperity that the whole of Yorkshire needs than a Government whose transport policy embodies its approach to the North.
Far from being discouraged, councils and MPs should use the Minister’s comments as further motivation to finesse their plans so the benefits for urban and rural Yorkshire are even clearer to see and then, if necessary, put them to the people. For they, after all, will be living with the consequences long after Mr Berry has left office.