Yorkshire devolution: Government warned that 'clock is ticking' to agree region-wide deal

The Government was tonight warned that the "clock is ticking" for an agreement to be reached that could pave the way for a wider Yorkshire devolution deal.

The Yorkshire Post says: Why we still believe in full devolution - but we need to make it happen together
During a Parliamentary debate on Yorkshire devolution, Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis said Ministers had a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to help put in place an arrangement that would make the region a force to be reckoned with on the global stage.

Civic leaders in Barnsley and Doncaster today wrote to the Government proposing that an interim mayor is appointed, rather than elected, for the Sheffield City Region for a two-year-period, following an example set in Greater Manchester in 2015.

What is devolution, how will it help us... and why has it taken so long for Yorkshire to reach a deal?
If this plan is agreed it would potentially allow an election for a Yorkshire-wide mayor to take place in 2020, with local authorities who signed the Sheffield City Region deal in 2015 given the option to join.

This differs from the suggestion made before Christmas by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, that the four South Yorkshire councils hold an election for a mayor in May and would only be able to leave to join a wider Yorkshire deal four years later, if all councils in Yorkshire and the Humber agreed.

During this afternoon's Westminster Hall debate, Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry said it would time be "extremely tight" to go through the necessary procedures to move the date of the Sheffield City Region election, and that the Government did not intend to undo the existing legislation.

He said the solution proposed by the Government would not stop local authorities in Yorkshire coming together to make a deal, and that if a consensus was achieved a 'One Yorkshire' solution for the entire region could be agreed.

In response, Mr Jarvis said he thought the Minister was being "a little under-ambitious", adding: "I think where there is a political will to make this change I think it would possible to do so."

He added: "I very much hope the Government will look very carefully at the detail in this letter, it is a good offer and a sound basis for negotiation. That is a process that must begin today and for the rest of this week.

"The clock is ticking, it is in all our interests to work together in the best possible way, that is what I am going to do."

The Yorkshire Post says: Now is the time for Yorkshire to decide its own destiny
This afternoon's debate included contributions by MPs from both major parties from around the region, including Conservatives Julian Sturdy and Kevin Hollinrake and former Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Mr Miliband was among those backing a wider Yorkshire deal, which was supported by 85 per cent of voters in his constituency of Doncaster in December, while Keighley MP John Grogan and Hull MP Diana Johnson also spoke in favour.

Mr Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton, said that unlike the Sheffield City Region deal signed in 2015, the 'One Yorkshire' deal was not currently on the table.

He called for leaders to move on with the South Yorkshire deal as soon as possible and for the rest of Yorkshire to try to negotiate a deal for other parts of the region.

The hearing was told that members of the so-called 'coalition of the willing', the Yorkshire councils backing a deal for the whole region of 5.3m people, were planning to meet on Friday to discuss how to proceed.

Mr Jarvis said that Yorkshire was a "special place", adding: "There is a huge strength in our diversity and if we are able to drive through an arrangement that brings 5.3m people together and an economy bigger than 11 EU nations, it would mean we were truly a force to be reckoned with, not just in this country but around the world."

He said: "If you go around the world people know about Yorkshire, it means something to them and it means something to us.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put into place an arrangement that could be meaningful for the people we represent and I hope we don't miss out on that opportunity.

"Not many Ministers are given the opportunity to do what he has been given the opportunity to do now, I hope he will take this opportunity."

Read more:

The Yorkshire Post says: Why we still believe in full devolution - but we need to make it happen together
What is devolution, how will it help us... and why has it taken so long for Yorkshire to reach a deal?
The Yorkshire Post says: Now is the time for Yorkshire to decide its own destiny
Dan Jarvis: How One Yorkshire devolution deal can put county in pole position

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