A government Minister has promised to help Yorkshire’s political leaders work together on issues affecting the whole region as he said he was ready to negotiate with cities and rural areas on new devolution deals.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he wanted to get a deal to hand powers and resources over to West Yorkshire over the line after what he describe as “a fallow period in which we haven’t signed any new devolution deals”.
The Yorkshire Post revealed yesterday that a deal for West Yorkshire which would see a metro mayor elected in 2022 could be signed in weeks after a constructive meeting between local leaders, Mr Jenrick and Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry.
The Government has previously rejected a ‘One Yorkshire’ arrangement for the whole region and as yet no deals transferring powers have been agreed.
But the possibility of a deal being done in West Yorkshire has raised fears that North Yorkshire, York, Hull and the East Riding, may be left behind. Keighley MP John Grogan, a backer of a One Yorkshire deal, said local leaders wanted a clear commitment from the Government about negotiating in good faith for a region-wide solution in 2022.
He said: “The danger of multiple elections for mayors in 2022 is that it would balkanise the county, lead to duplication of effort and waste of resources and entrench rivalries diminishing the Yorkshire brand and identity.”
Speaking at Tory conference in Manchester, Mr Jenrick, MP for Newark in Nottinghamshire, told The Yorkshire Post: “We stand ready now to negotiate productively with any city or region or indeed rural area that would like to take devolution forwards.
“I understand the strength of the Yorkshire identity. It happens I represent a constituency that goes right up to Yorkshire and many of my constituents consider themselves Yorkshire men and women.
“But what I want to see is us get the process going again. We’ve had a fallow period in which we haven’t signed any new devolution deals. And I’d like to think that we could do that and get some over the line. So any area that’s interested in a devolution deal, I’d strongly encourage them to come to us. And we’ll work as productively with them as we can to see what’s possible.”
Mr Jenrick, who became Communities Secretary when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, said Leeds, Bradford and the surrounding area were the missing link in English devolution.
He said: “It’s such an important part of the country economically, it has so many great economic assets, whether it’s the university, Channel Four shortly to arrive, I would absolutely love us to get that deal done and people in West Yorkshire have my absolute commitment that will do everything we can to secure that deal if that’s what local people want.”
He said that during a meeting with West Yorkshire leaders last week he discussed the setting up of a ‘Yorkshire committee’ which could work on issues on a pan-Yorkshire basis.
He said: “My offer of behalf of the Prime Minister is to work productively with it, to see what government can do to assist their activities and to take forward those ideas and proposals which do work best on a pan-Yorkshire basis, whether that’s tourism, inward investment, culture. But our approach is now to try to get going with deals.
“We’ve talked around this issue for too long. It’s important that Leeds and other parts of Yorkshire aren’t left behind as Manchester and the Tees Valley and Birmingham power ahead with elected mayors.”
Separately, Chancellor Sajid Javid announced plans to bring forward a White Paper on further devolution - saying he wanted to give more local powers to local people.