Hull North MP Diana Johnson told Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick that Hull and the East Riding were having permanent changes to local government forced on them “in return for vague and to date unspecified promises of regeneration”.
But the Conservative Minister said that if a devolution deal was done the Government would follow its legal duties by holding a consultation where it would take “great care to take the opinions of the local population”.
Talks will begin with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government after May’s local elections over the proposal for a host of new powers and up to £1.6bn in extra funding to be given to a new mayoral combined authority covering the population of around 600,000.
The end result could be the creation of an elected metro mayor with powers over planning and transport similar to those in West and South Yorkshire, as well as easier access to central government funding. In both cases, consultations about the way the devolution deal would work were held after an agreement was reached.
Politicians in North Yorkshire and York are also due to start their own negotiations with government about their devolution proposal, which they hope would be worth up to £2.4bn and help make the county the first ‘carbon-negative economy’.
Local leaders in the East Riding and Hull had originally hoped to join forces with councils in North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire as part of a pan-Humber agreement. But the two south bank authorities decided to align with the rest of Lincolnshire instead.
The Hull and East Riding document says that social cohesion is “relatively strong” across the population of 600,000, which is evenly split between the city of Hull and the surrounding area and more than 300 market and coastal towns, villages and hamlets.
It is hoped that with the help of the extra funding currently under the control of government new programmes can be set up which will improve access to jobs for young people and stop poverty from being passed down the generations.
In the Commons yesterday, Dame Diana said: “Can the Secretary of State explain that why local people in Hull and the use Riding of Yorkshire were not trusted to be asked about what devolution to look like locally and to help shape those plans, rather than just being told by Whitehall what they must have with permanent changes to local government, in return for vague and to date unspecified promises of regeneration?”
Replying, Mr Jenrick said: “When we approach local government reorganisation we do so only in circumstances where there is a good deal of local support and we’ve taken forward a small number of proposals this year, including North Yorkshire.
“Those are then subject to a consultation exercise where we notify stakeholders and take great care to take the opinions of the local population. And then of course it comes to a Minister under the Act for the ultimate decision.
“Were local government reorganisation or a devolution deal to be negotiated in the Honourable Lady’s part of the world, I know there is some local interest, we will of course follow all of those legal requirements.”