Former Archbishop of Yorkshire Dr John Sentamu back demands ‘real devolution’ for all Yorkshire

Grassroots campaigners are set to mark the 50th anniversary of the abolition of the historic Ridings of Yorkshire by calling for the establishment of a regional assembly with budgetary control and tax-raising powers.

Backed by former Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, 100 “citizens of the ancient kingdom and cultural province of Yorkshire” have signed a declaration pressing for “real devolution” for the 4,596sq mile area, which will be proclaimed on April 1.

The Yorkshire Declaration comes more than five years after the government rejected the One Yorkshire single devolution bid, which had been backed by 18 out of the region’s 20 local councils - only Sheffield and Rotherham opting for a separate South Yorkshire solution.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said the plan did “not meet our devolution criteria”.

Former Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu at Bishopthorpe Palace, York.Former Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu at Bishopthorpe Palace, York.
Former Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu at Bishopthorpe Palace, York.

Ahead of his retirement in 2020, Dr Sentamu said he counted the failure to deliver One Yorkshire amongst his greatest disappointments, warning the region’s economy would suffer if a more co-ordinated approach to policy-making was not agreed.

Last night he told the Yorkshire Post that Conservative ministers Robert Jenrick and Jake Berry had told him they feared One Yorkshire, with an economy bigger than Scotland or the Netherlands, would lead to a republic being established.

Responding to the campaign, Dr Sentamu said as someone named Yorkshireman of the Year in 2007, he was sympathetic towards its aims and a regional government similar to that in London.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: "How come London has a mayor with authority to do this or to do that, I know it's the capital city, but believe it or not York was one of the greatest cities in England.

"Any structure which is going to deliver more for the people of Yorkshire than at present arrangements has got to be supported."

Signatories to the document include no politicians and instead range from a former Yorkshire Water boss, a knighted former civil servant and a professor of archaeology to a poet and an orchestra conductor.

However, the Yorkshire Declaration urges every resident to support the campaign to ensure that devolution for Yorkshire is a key commitment in manifestos of politicians in the general election.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, numerous Yorkshire council leaders as well as Yorkshire-based peers were reticent to comment about the campaign ahead of its launch.

The campaigners claim the region has been treated by London-centred aristocrats and political leaders “as little more than a colonial outpost, whose resources and people are there to be exploited for personal enrichment”.

Despite plans for the establishment of four mayoralties in Yorkshire, the declaration states how differences in community wealth, personal well-being and career opportunities between southern England and those in the North have been allowed to become ever wider.

The document also points towards studies showing how local government has over the last decade been systematically starved of funding, with 95 per cent of UK tax revenues now being “seized by central Government” and 75 per cent of expenditure controlled by Whitehall.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The declaration highlights how London has, since 2000, had its own directly elected assembly of 25 members, while in Yorkshire saw the Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber Region closed by the coalition government in 2012 in a so-called austerity measure.

The declaration states: “We believe that only through a strong and effective system of regional governance, as established in other more economically successful European countries, can Yorkshire fulfil its true potential.

“The French, Germans, Austrians and Swiss with their Régions Métropoles, Länder and Cantons, all trust their regions to lead the way, enabling people to come together and take control of their own destinies.

“Yorkshire is a proud and beautiful part of Northern England, with its own distinctive history, magnificent landscape, rich culture, ancient Anglo-Viking dialect of English and a gifted, creative workforce.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dr Simon Duffy, who runs the Sheffield-based think tank Citizen Network which has published the declaration, said countries with strong democracies and strong economies ensured power is distributed fairly.

He said: “The extreme concentration of power and money in London has been disastrous for Yorkshire and for the North of England and unless there is urgent reform things will get even worse very quickly.”

One of the signatories, Colin Speakman, said: "The four combined mayoralties are a step forward, a few crumbs off the cake, but they still have to go to London for every penny they can spend."

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.