Tom Richmond: Time for One Yorkshire leaders to exploit their best asset - the people

Graeme Bandeira's Ebor day cartoon.
Graeme Bandeira's Ebor day cartoon.
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WHEN will Yorkshire’s political leaders start exploiting this county’s best asset – the people who live and work here – in its battle of wills with the Government over devolution?

I ask this question at the end of yet another exasperating week in which Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry again rebuffed the One Yorkshire prospectus during his so called ‘listening and learning’ tour of the region.

Jake Berry is the Northern Powerhouse Minister.

Jake Berry is the Northern Powerhouse Minister.

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He’s one of those politicians who thinks that he’s always in the right. He’s not. And he knows he’s on the defensive because he keeps shifting the goalposts.

Yet the public response of West Yorkshire Combined Authority did not inspire confidence. “We have developed a clear and united vision for One Yorkshire devolution and we need the Government to help us make swift progress,” tweeted its insipid external affairs team.

The Yorkshire Post says: Time to prove Jake Berry wrong as he moves the goalposts

In essence, this is the issue. It might be ‘clear’ to the political, business and civic leaders who, in fairness, have been working tirelessly to unite the region and finesse a plan that would enable this county to shape its own future and influence the national debate.

It is obviously not sufficiently ‘clear’ to the likes of the obdurate Mr Berry and James Brokenshire, the Cabinet minister responsible for this issue. If it was, they would have been overruled by more senior Ministers.

And it is certainly not ‘clear’ to the county’s residents. Talking to people, and acquaintances, they are, on the whole, supportive of a Yorkshire-wide mayor – and the need for strong leadership to counter a Government which continues to treat with the North with contempt.

However they’re not ‘clear’ on how it will work in practice. They want to know a prospective mayor’s powers, what devolution will mean for transport, skills and investment – and they want to know how One Yorkshire will dovetail with local authorities. They don’t want more tiers of government. They want better government. They’d like to know the impact on council tax bills, a not unreasonable point.

They appreciate the diversity of the economy, and believe this is a strength rather than a weakness, but they want to know how One Yorkshire, and the focus on the region’s large cities and towns, will enhance the rural economy.

WYCA and others might think that they have all the answers – but they should stop talking to each other and start communicating more clearly to the public at large. For, if they do, and residents and businesses grasp the scale of the opportunity that could exist if the One Yorkshire vision comes to pass, it will be even harder for the likes of Mr Berry to say ‘no’.

DESPITE this column’s repeated calls, TransPennine Express MD Leo Goodwin has still not agreed to meet commuters in Marsden and Slaithwaite who have endured hundreds of late and cancelled trains since late May.

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Given reports he was paid a bonus of £36,000 in 2017-18 – talk about a reward for failure – perhaps meeting the public on a regular basis should become a condition of his future remuneration.

So, if Mr Goodwin won’t meet passengers, will he respond to the submission that Slaithwaite & Marsden Action on Rail Transport (SMART) has made to the current inquiry into the rail chaos? I can forward him a copy if he’s interested, but his PR team has stopped taking my calls.

And, while he’s at it, will Mr Goodwin forego last year’s bonus, and any entitlement that he might receive for 2018-19, as an acknowledgement that his company has let down the travelling public? After all, he does still have a £10,000 pay increase that has taken basic salary to a reported £275,000 – hence my call in Thursday’s paper for total transparency over the remuneration of all rail executives, private and public, earning six figure sums.

IT’S not just the TransPennine Express and Northern timetables that are works of fiction. Passengers on the recently renationalised London North Eastern Railway are also seeing advertised trains taken out of service for the foreseeable future.

“A lot of research and thought went into this and we have cancelled services that tend to be our quieter services,” posted LNER in response to one angry tweet about a cancelled London to Leeds train. It’s still no way to run a railway.

LNER has taken over the East Coast main line franchise after the Virgin / Stagecoach franchise collapsed. Unfortunately Virgin Media’s customer service is no better. Two hours on the telephone the other night obtained no information on when (or if) wi-fi and broadband coverage will resume at Richmond Towers – it’s been down now for 10 days and the evasiveness of its call centre staff threaten to make the railways here look well run by comparison.

The firm’s best advice was to download its app. How ironic when the lack of any internet access was / is the problem. Yet, after this, I sympathise even more with all those rural residents who don’t have basic wi-fi. I don’t know how they manage.

AUGUST used to be dominated by ‘silly season’ stories about who was running the country in the absence of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or David Cameron. This hasn’t happened on Theresa May’s watch. Either her deputy David Lidington is quietly effective – or she’s adopted Chris Grayling’s approach to the railways and no one is in charge.

ON Ebor day when York hosts the 2018 renewal of a historic handicap which celebrates the city’s Roman heritage, there’s one racing omen for Theresa May. A horse called Brexitmeansbrexit won this week – at the 11th time of asking. The PM can only hope she doesn’t need so many attempts to pass her Brexit plan.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk