Javid wants Yorkshire devolution agreed in 2017

Local Government Secretary Sajid JavidLocal Government Secretary Sajid Javid
Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid
LOCAL GOVERNMENT Secretary Sajid Javid has pledged to work with council leaders to end Yorkshire's devolution deadlock by the end of the year.

Mr Javid rejected the ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution plan in its current form but did not rule out the idea of striking a single agreement for the whole region.

He also left open the possibility of other arrangements such as a West Yorkshire or Leeds City Region ‘devolution deal’ alongside the existing agreement covering the Sheffield City Region area.

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Mr Javid set out the Government’s position in a letter to West Yorkshire council leaders which has been welcomed for providing “clear criteria” for future proposals.

Next month areas around the country, including Greater Manchester and Tees Valley, will hold elections for new ‘metro-mayors’ who will take on powers in areas such as transport and skills.

But the election of a Sheffield City Region mayor has been delayed for a year after a legal challenge and tensions between South Yorkshire councils while council leaders, MPs and the Government have been unable to agree arrangements covering the rest of the region.

In his letter, Mr Javid says: “There is clearly enthusiasm for further devolution in Yorkshire, and I hope to see progress made.”

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He asks for options to be drawn up and a meeting with council leaders “with a view to concluding a deal as soon as possible this year”.

The so-called ‘One Yorkshire’ plan was floated earlier this year which would see a single mayor for the whole region working with three combined authorities made up of council leaders from different areas.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy has previously dismissed the idea but Mr Javid’s letter leaves the door open to a single Yorkshire deal if it involves a mayor and a single combined authority.

Combined authorities already exist in South and West Yorkshire to work on issues which cross council boundaries.

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The letter says proposals must be “consistent” with the election of a Sheffield City Region mayor in 2018 but ‘One Yorkshire’ supporters will argue electing a mayor for the whole region in May next year would meet that criteria.

It had previously been thought the Government would insist on the Sheffield City Region election going ahead and press council leaders in the rest of Yorkshire to pursue the ‘Greater Yorkshire’ proposal bringing West, North and East Yorkshire under a single mayor.

However, Mr Javid’s letter stops short of imposing a solution and says proposals must be “locally-led” leaving the way open for districts to come together in a variety of combinations if a One Yorkshire deal cannot be agreed.

In his response, West Yorkshire Combined Authority chairman Peter Box welcomed the “clear criteria” set out by Mr Javid.

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He wrote: “We are all frustrated by the collective lack of progress, so I support strongly your desire to conclude a deal as soon as possible this year.”

Coun Box, the leader of Wakefield Council, told Mr Javid that achieving a deal this year would require “meaningful progress soon”.

Business leaders in Yorkshire have been increasingly vocal in recent months over the failure to agree devolution deals.

There are concerns the powers given to new mayors in other parts of the country will give them major economic advantages.