EVEN though Brexit, and internal power struggles, are threatening to overwhelm Theresa May’s government, tonight’s Commons debate on devolution is critical to Yorkshire’s long-term prosperity.
This is a region that has listened to David Cameron’s advice, stopped the bickering, got its act together and come up with a coherent plan – One Yorkshire – publicly backed by 17 out of 20 councils and has the potential to maximise this great county’s myriad strengths.
The quality of the blueprint is such that it demands the most serious attention at the very highest levels of government rather than the dismissive statement issued by the Department of
Communities and Local Government, on behalf of Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry, when the national media finally acknowledged the scale of Yorkshire’s growing ambition at the weekend. For the DCLG’s benefit, plans for an elected mayor covering Sheffield City Region are no longer viable after Doncaster and Barnsley
Councils signalled their desire to join forces with the rest of the county. The debate has moved on.
And, as localism is supposedly about empowering communities, an obstinate refusal to even consider the One Yorkshire model – a position reiterated by the DCLG – will suggest that the
Government only wants devolutions on its terms, is unwilling to show the flexibility that Ministers have talked about on visits to The Yorkshire Post and is incapable of taking any decisions because Mrs May’s authority is so weakened.
This is a chance for the Government to dispel these doubts. This debate is a litmus test which will define the future relationship between Ministers and Yorkshire. While the city-region model is working elsewhere, a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal has the potential to be truly transformative and Ministers will not be thanked if they’re unable to recognise the once-in-a-generation opportunity that exists at long last.
Local leaders know that a strong and united Yorkshire can make a difference, not just here, but to the future prospects of Great Britain if the right framework for the future is agreed.
The people of God’s own country will watch tonight to see if this Government is with us, or against us.