Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post on a visit to Leeds yesterday, Mr Clark said he is determined to “turbo charge” an agreement for the region. Admitting his frustration at delays in reaching a solution between city and county councils, he called on Yorkshire’s leaders to work closely together.
“I would have liked to see Yorkshire alongside Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield at this point,” he said.
“The best way forward is for people to sit down together for as long as it takes to come up with a proposal. If they do then they will get Government backing.” The Minister was in Leeds for a meeting with Muslim leaders to discuss young people’s vote in the Brexit debate.
Acknowledging the challenge that Yorkshire authorities face, he said devolution was vital in securing the region’s place in the proposed Northern Powerhouse.
“Yorkshire is building on the successes of its past,” he said. “If we want to continue the development of our great cities then we have to make a transfer of power to local leaders.
“I’m absolutely determined to do that - we need to turbo charge that agenda.”
Unlike many areas in the North of England such as Greater Manchester and Teesside, a devolution deal has yet to be signed off for the majority of Yorkshire, with only Sheffield reaching an agreement. As part of the devolution deal, the Government is offering to hand over responsibility and money to groups of councils which join together and agree to the creation of elected mayors.
The Government has insisted there is a consensus before any deals are done.
And while West Yorkshire councils have been pressing for a Leeds City Region, Conservative MPs in West Yorkshire along with North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and East Riding Council have been calling for a greater ‘Yorkshire-wide’ agreement.
The result has culminated in ‘devolution deadlock’.
And while Mr Clark has said he cannot back one deal over another, he would urge local leaders to consider what devolution would mean to the region as a whole.
“It would be wrong of me to say to Yorkshire ‘This is how it must be’,” he said. “It’s for the councils to decide.
“There has to be a local consensus. And nobody doubts the appetite for devolution.
“It’s a big county. But I know there’s goodwill there - it’s just a question of arranging the geography.
“I’ve never said what the right geography is.
“I’ve said that the Yorkshire brand is a world brand.
“I would hope and expect that whatever is decided upon will make strong use of this.”