Council leaders from both main parties met Communities Secretary James Brokenshire this afternoon after he said their plan for handing powers to a Yorkshire-wide mayor did not meet government criteria.
It was agreed that officers from Yorkshire councils would start working immediately with staff from the Tory Minister’s department on the points raised in their submission setting out the economic case last year.
But there were conflicting accounts about whether Mr Brokenshire signalled he would be willing to change his mind about region-wide devolution being viable, after earlier ruling that Yorkshire did not represent a ‘functional economic area’.
We're united behind One Yorkshire, region's leaders to tell James Brokenshire at Fountains Abbey summitLeaders made the case that other smaller deals such as a Leeds City Region arrangement had already been tried unsuccessfully.
They said in a statement: “We were pleased to welcome the Secretary of State to Fountains Abbey today where we had a very positive discussion around devolution.
“We were clear that we remain committed to the One Yorkshire approach to devolution, which an independent study has shown could add £30bn a year to the region’s economy, while recognising that further work is required to make progress, including on interim arrangements.
“It was agreed that officers from One Yorkshire authorities will begin work immediately with colleagues from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Treasury on the points raised in our One Yorkshire submission last year.
“We agreed to meet with the Secretary of State again later in the year.”
It is understood that the Government’s chief whip Julian Smith attended the meeting at Fountains Abbey, which falls within his Skipton and Ripon constituency, but remains officially neutral on the matter.
Among the political leaders in attendance were Sheffield City Region metro mayor Dan Jarvis, Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake and Carl Les, the Tory leader of North Yorkshire County Council.
Coun Les told The Yorkshire Post afterwards that the meeting was “positive” and “constructive”.
Mr Brokenshire, a former Northern Ireland Secretary, is understood to have repeated the point from his letter that One Yorkshire does not currently meet the criteria for devolution, with another source familiar with the meeting suggesting he explicitly ruled out the proposals.
During the meeting in the grounds of the 12th century Cistercian monastery, leaders made the case that Yorkshire has a vital role to play in fuelling the UK’s prosperity post-Brexit and could help the region’s urban, rural and coastal areas.