This is why a West Yorkshire devolution deal has taken so long to arrive

As political sagas go, this one makes the struggle to 'get Brexit done' seem like a flash in the pan.

And today West Yorkshire leaders gathered at Granary Wharf in Leeds to announce an agreement on devolution, marking the end of a process dating back to George Osborne's reign as Chancellor in 2014.

Mr Osborne's vision, set out in a speech at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry, was that his 'Northern Powerhouse concept' would be powered by elected metro mayors who could put their areas on the map and help bridge the North-South divide.

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"A Mayor for Greater Manchester. A Mayor for Leeds. With powers similar to the Mayor of London."

The first part of the promise arrived quickly, with Andy Burnham elected as Greater Manchester's metro mayor in May 2017. But achieving the same in West Yorkshire proved a harder nut to crack.

By 2015 a proposal had been agreed for a Leeds city region devolution deal covering the West Yorkshire districts of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield plus the North Yorkshire districts of Craven, Harrogate, Selby and the City of York.

But in the face of opposition from Yorkshire Conservatives, perhaps fearful that the area's metro mayor would likely wear a red rosette, the deal never gained government approval.

A West Yorkshire devolution deal has been years in the making. Stock picA West Yorkshire devolution deal has been years in the making. Stock pic
A West Yorkshire devolution deal has been years in the making. Stock pic
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From the ashes of this failure a new idea emerged in the following months, this time for the creation of a Yorkshire-wide mayoral authority representing the entire 5.3 million people in Yorkshire and the Humber.

However this proposal was also not without its difficulties. It set up a conflict with the devolution deal signed in 2015 by Mr Osborne and the leaders of Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham councils for a 'Sheffield City Region' arrangement.

While Sheffield and Rotherham stuck to their guns, Doncaster and Barnsley decided that a 'One Yorkshire' deal would better represent their interests and joined 16 other local authorities from around the region in making the case to government.

The South Yorkshire schism meant the 2015 deal also went off the rails, with metro mayor Dan Jarvis elected in 2018 but with no powers and resources because the consultation allowing the devolution deal to be implemented was never completed.

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Despite the efforts of the so-called 'coalition of the willing', backed by business chiefs, unions and even the Archbishop of York, a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal met with resistance from Ministers.

Successive Local Government Secretaries, Sajid Javis and James Brokenshire insisted that a deal covering an area as big and diverse as Yorkshire was not their preferred option, and that the focus should instead be on getting the stalled Sheffield City Region deal going.

And with Brexit dominating in the background under the premiership of Theresa May, the issue was allowed to drift with little progress.

The turning point came with Mrs May's resignation and her replacement by Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London.

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He gave the game away at a hustings event in York in July last year when he told the audience: "I know people might not necessarily want a mayor of Yorkshire because there is a risk that it might not be a Conservative mayor and that would not be a good thing."

But as he attempted to woo voters behind the so-called 'red wall' of northern Labour-held seats, efforts were stepped up to finally make progress.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry re-entered talks with West Yorkshire leaders which had reached an advanced stage by the time the snap election was called for December.

And when the Prime Minister emerged from the election with a commanding 80-seat majority, ending the government's tenuous hold over its own MPs, it became clear that Yorkshire council leaders' hopes of a One Yorkshire deal would have to be put off for the foreseeable future.

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This meant the Sheffield City Region deal was finally agreed, with the prospect of becoming law later this summer, and the talks on a West Yorkshire proceeded apace.

The negotiations were not without tensions, not least between the local West Yorkshire leaders themselves. Last week, with talks at a sensitive stage, Wakefield leader Denise Jeffery declared she would "refuse to accept Wakefield being swallowed up into a new entity called Leeds City Region".

There were also issues to work out about the exact size of the 'gainshare' funding to be handed to West Yorkshire, the scale and nature of the powers an elected mayor would enjoy, and when the metro mayor would be elected.

The precise details of the deal will soon emerge following the announcement by Rishi Sunak in today's Budget.

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But it means that after years of looking on enviously, West Yorkshire's population of more than two million people will now have an elected mayor to stand alongside those in Manchester, Birmingham and the Tees Valley, with the powers and money to make things happen for the county.

And at a time when the concept of 'levelling-up' dominates political discourse, West Yorkshire will have some of the tools to boost local prosperity itself, rather than having to rely on handouts from Whitehall.