Jake Berry: Forget Yorkshire devolution, cities will lead region's resurgence

There will be no Yorkshire-wide devolution, says Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry.There will be no Yorkshire-wide devolution, says Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry.
There will be no Yorkshire-wide devolution, says Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry.
AS a Lancashire lad, you might expect that I'd be uneasy crossing the Pennines.

But I spent three years in Sheffield as a student and loved every minute of it.

Over the last year, we’ve seen successes across the region. Boeing and McLaren opening new factories in Rotherham; the growth of the digital sector in Leeds; and in Hull the new Siemens factory and the excitement of being the city of culture.

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This success belongs to the people of Yorkshire, but the Government has played its part. In 2014 we launched our ambition to create a Northern Powerhouse, and we’ve backed our ideas with cash - £1.35bn has been invested in the Yorkshire region since 2014.

I know some people have asked whether the Government is committed to the Northern Powerhouse. The answer is an emphatic yes.

The north of England is at its strongest when it comes together.

So we are investing heavily in transport to join up the biggest cities, linking Bradford Leeds and Sheffield to Manchester, Liverpool, Hull, and the North East.

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We are working with eight world class research universities in the north of England to boost innovation and high value jobs.

We are supporting concerted efforts across the north to attract and retain the best teachers, and give every child the best chance of a great start in life.

And we are giving away powers and funding.

In May, the people of Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and the Tees Valley elected mayors. Two are Labour; one is Conservative. I work with all three.

Now it’s Yorkshire’s turn.

I want to be very clear about one thing. There will not be a “full Yorkshire” devolution deal. Yorkshire is a fantastic brand. But devolution is about giving control to cities.

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Sheffield goes first. Next May people in the Sheffield region will elect a mayor and I share the strong view of local business leaders that the deal we signed in October 2015 remains the right deal for Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and Sheffield. Indeed, it’s the only deal that’s there for those areas.

Around £1bn of new funding, local control, and a powerful voice at the national table. It’s a terrific opportunity.

Many people will think: what can this mayor do for me? How does this affect my family, my job or my ability to get on in life?

But in May 2018 the people of Sheffield aren’t just voting for another politician. They’re voting to take control of decisions that matter to them locally – with directly-elected mayors who are accountable to the local people that they serve.

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I also want to make clear that I want to work with local leaders in Leeds and I’m ready to listen to their ideas. Our process is bottom-up and our doors are open to locally-led proposals.

Jake Berry is the Northern Powerhouse Minister.