Mark Casci: Time to stop the ludicrous impasse on devolution

I celebrated my birthday over the weekend and inevitably have been in a reflective mood.

Ministers are to blame for the failure to progress One Yorkshire.
Ministers are to blame for the failure to progress One Yorkshire.

The main reason for this is not owing to any fear of growing older but rather more due to the fact that by the time you read this I will be on the train down to Westminster for the CBI’s Yorkshire & Humber MPs Reception.

At the event last year, held in the rather grand and impressive environs of the Churchill Room, devolution was naturally at the top of the agenda and it will almost certainly come up today as well.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

It would be churlish to suggest for a single second that there has been no progress in the last 12 months.

We now have an elected mayor in the shape of Dan Jarvis, who is tasked with running the Sheffield City Region but lacks the funding and powers that his fellow metro mayors in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool have.

However the impasse continues. Barnsley and Doncaster have turned their backs on the devolution agreement that was signed and instead switched their support to the One Yorkshire proposition, one supported by 18 of the region’s 20 councils and huge swathes of the region’s business leaders.

The plan for a large scale devolution agreement to cover the whole county promises to deliver billions in extra revenue for the region and would create by far the largest devolved power in England.

However Sheffield and Rotherham remain steadfast in their refusal to alter their own smaller-scale agreement and the Government continues to insist that it will not discuss One Yorkshire until “the Sheffield City Region deal is implemented in full”.

FILE PICTURE - The Houses of Parliament, London.

It is a ridiculous mess, one that makes Brexit seem like a Swiss watch. But unlike our efforts to leave the European Union, there can be a simpler solution.

It is time for compromise.

The insistence of implementing the Sheffield deal in full is, I am sorry to say, risible.

Half of the councils involved are not interested. Rather than demanding the impossible is it not better to focus on the achievable?

Stock - Sheffield Cityscape from Hallamshire Hospital

We could amend the Sheffield City Region deal to limit it to just Sheffield and Rotherham.

This respects the wishes of those two areas and frees up the rest of the region to crack on.

A Greater Yorkshire deal could be drafted, one that excludes Sheffield and Rotherham.

Part of this wording could include the option of revisiting One Yorkshire after say a two year cooling off period.

None of this is visionary policy making on my part. It has been suggested by many.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire owes it to this region to at least hear out the arguments. In his tenure in office he has yet to visit Yorkshire. This would be a perfect opportunity to do so.

As such, as I and scores of business leaders head down to the capital to champion the region, I suggest that he free up a day to visit the region to sit down and engage with the key players.

He has a duty to exercise leadership on this matter. It is unacceptable that we can have a vibrant and diverse economy like Yorkshire’s, home to more than five million people, handed a playing field that is unequal to the rest of the English regions.

I concede we are not making things easy for ourselves. The feuding tribes mentality is one that is taking much time to disappear.

But when the benefits are so high and the case for settling this so clear, it is time for the arguments of the past to be left where they are and for a new dawn to begin.

By the time we get to this event again next year we simply cannot find ourselves in the same situation.

Dictating the terms of devolution is a contradiction in term. You cannot hand responsibility for decision making to one hand while binding the other with petty rules.

The City Deal model will not work for Yorkshire, with its vast swathes of rural heartland. These areas deserve better than the promise of trickle down benefits from the cities.

And we as Yorkshiremen and women should accept not less.