Yorkshire mayors to get improved devolution deals

South and West Yorkshire will receive next-generation devolution deals to rival Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, Michael Gove will announce.

In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, the Levelling Up Secretary said that he will unveil new devolution agreements with mayors Oliver Coppard and Tracy Brabin “so they match the powers” given to other regions.

These will include “single pot settlements” which will act as flexible budgets for the mayors to spend on each region’s priorities, akin to the devolved budget given to Scotland.

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“There's never been a government that has been pro- the North and pro-Yorkshire in the way that this one has,” Mr Gove said.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove will be speaking at the Convention of the North.Cabinet minister Michael Gove will be speaking at the Convention of the North.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove will be speaking at the Convention of the North.

“Under the last Labour government, the only place that had a mayor was London.”

This “power-surge” of devolution for existing mayors comes after the Government agreed devolution deals with North and East Yorkshire, meaning every area of the county will be covered by a mayor-led combined authority.

Speaking ahead of his speech at the Convention of the North in Leeds later today, Mr Gove said that the city will see a regeneration through investment in housing and its “cultural heart”, including making sure the Royal Armouries, British Library North and the future National Poetry Centre all have the homes they need to thrive.

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While several combined authorities continue to receive new levels of Government funding and support, local authorities such as Bradford and Kirklees have continued to struggle with the financial burden of social care and increased energy and inflation costs.

Mr Gove said that the next Conservative manifesto will have a long-term offer to voters on making sure that local authorities are funded properly in the future, rather than having to rely on Government bailouts when they reach breaking point.

Ministers have previously approved a £600 million finance settlement for councils where the pressures are greatest, but the Levelling Up Secretary hinted that measures such as the retention of business rates could be expanded as it “makes local government finance more sustainable”.

“I make no secret of the fact that I think council tax overall needs to be overhauled,” he said, adding; “I know come the manifesto, we’ll have thoughts about how we can make local government finance fairer and more sustainable for the future”.

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This comes after the Government said it has no plans to review the current system of council tax, which currently sees Northern households overpaying by £250 per year according to analysis by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

Further research published today also suggests that until regional inequality is addressed the UK will have to wait until 2080 for healthy life expectancy in the North reaches levels seen in the South East of England.

The report by the IPPR North think tank found that by 2030 the number of years you can expect to live in good health in the North and Midlands is three and a half years shorter than in London.

The Government’s “Levelling Up” agenda, which will be five years old in November after it was announced in Boris Johnson’s 2019 manifesto, is aimed at reducing this gap, as part of one of its 12 “missions”.

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Ministers are required to report on the Government’s progress on these missions, but it has now emerged that this will not happen until after the next election, which the Conservatives are on course to lose in a record swing towards Labour.

Mr Gove would not commit to publishing the outcomes of the Government’s progress on the successes or failures of its flagship project before voters head to the polls.

Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow minister for levelling up, said: “If the Tories were truly confident about delivering on their flagship promise to level up the country, they should welcome the opportunity to show the public what progress has been made.

"It speaks volumes that Michael Gove is running scared - even when he’s marking his own homework. With everything from housebuilding to wages plummeting across the whole country, this government’s version of Levelling Up is a sham - and a scam”

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Speaking ahead of her own speech at the Convention of the North, Angela Rayner accused the Conservatives of “crashing the economy and expecting the North to pay for it”.

Michael Gove’s Labour counterpart said that his party had for too long “underestimated the North” and “failed to give northern towns and cities the tools or opportunity to live up to their best potential.”