EXCLUSIVE: Devolution deal for West Yorkshire could be signed in weeks after 'constructive' talks with government

Failure to reach an agreement on devolution has seen Yorkshire fall behind Manchester and the Tees Valley.
Failure to reach an agreement on devolution has seen Yorkshire fall behind Manchester and the Tees Valley.
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A long-awaited devolution deal which would see powers and resources handed to Yorkshire leaders could be signed as early as November, The Yorkshire Post has learned.

The Government has laid out an offer to West Yorkshire's political leaders which could potentially see a metro mayor elected in 2022 with control over adult education budgets, delivery of homes and economic growth.

The meeting with Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick on Thursday could mean an end to the devolution deadlock which has seen Yorkshire left behind Manchester, Liverpool and the Tees Valley.

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Mr Berry described the meeting as "exceptionally productive" while another source told The Yorkshire Post it was "constructive" but should be seen as a way of reaching an interim agreement on the way to a wider One Yorkshire deal.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry

The deal being put forward by the Government offers West Yorkshire the powers currently held by Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham, though without control over health and social care budgets.

It means possible powers that West Yorkshire could take control of include infrastructure spending and the scrutiny of the county's police and fire services.

Talks will now continue between West Yorkshire leaders and their counterparts elsewhere in the region, the majority of whom back a devolution deal for all of Yorkshire.

And The Yorkshire Post understands the offer from the government contains no guarantees about a wider deal ever being done and could see it pushed back by several years.

And Carl Les, the Tory leader of North Yorkshire County Council has called for clarity on what devolution deals would be done in North Yorkshire, York, Hull and the East Riding if West Yorkshire gets its deal signed first.

He told The Yorkshire Post that splitting up Yorkshire "runs the risk of creating haves and have-nots".

And he is concerned that the possibility of North Yorkshire districts Harrogate, Craven and Selby joining the West Yorkshire deal as associate members as part of a so-called 'Leeds City Region' deal, could create "orphans" separated from the rest of the county.

Though the Government has been resistant to a One Yorkshire deal, in a speech this month in Rotherham Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to open up negotiations with Leeds and West Yorkshire, while leaving the door open to a region-wide deal.

With a General Election expected before the end of the year, Mr Johnson has made a number of high profile pledges to the North, including expanding the powers already held by northern metro mayors.

A statement from Mr Berry said: "It was an exceptionally productive meeting with West Yorkshire leaders and I look forward to reading their proposals to advance devolution in the next few weeks."

A separate source familiar with the discussions said Thursday's meeting to discuss interim arrangements between now and a One Yorkshire deal was "exploratory" and "constructive", with further talks intended.