YP Comment: Devolution: It's time to unite. Business warning needs heeding

THIS WILL, inevitably, be a year of reckoning for Theresa May and her ability to make progress on her Brexit negotiations. If the Prime Minister continues to be thwarted by her opponents, she might '“ still '“ be forced to call the early election that she promised not to hold.

Can Yorkshire speak with one voice in 2017?

Equally, the challenges facing Yorkshire’s MPs and councils are no less challenging as calls grow from business leaders for this county to reconcile its devolution differences so this region can present an united front to investors, and the like, as the Government negotiates the terms of the UK’s divorce from the EU.

Yet, while 10 Downing Street has had no shortage of advice from the leaders of the Celtic nations or those English regions where devolution deals are in place, Yorkshire’s voice will not be heard clearly unless its own elected representatives reach a consensus on this region’s future governance.

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For such a self-confident county, it is paradoxical that there are not the political and civic leaders with the clout to break the deadlock and recognise that Yorkshire should be presenting an united front to the rest of the country, and Europe, if it wants to become an economic powerhouse.

This is highlighted by PwC boss Ian Morrison becoming the latest senior business figure to call for Yorkshire’s leaders to seize the initiative so this area can begin to invest in its industrial infrastructure.

Mr Morrison makes a profound point when he urges his colleagues: “What businesses across our region should avoid is adopting ‘a wait and see’ attitude. Business needs to carry on and instead adopt a more ‘can do’ spirit.”

They are words which also apply to regional devolution. Hoping for the best is not a sustainable strategy – and it’s time that local political leaders started listening to those business bosses who are concerned about the current impasse. After all, they’re the people who do know how to create wealth and jobs.

Life and death

AS an emergency service, firefighters can’t take any chances when an automatic alarm goes off. If they ignore it, and people are trapped inside a burning building, they will be accused of a gross dereliction of duty – and rightly so.

However, given the frequency of such call-outs, their frustration is understandable – this is time that could be better spent on training drills, installing smoke detectors or visiting schools to talk about the importance of fire safety.

Nevertheless, some perspective is required. The businesses concerned will claim, with reason, that a proportion of their business rates goes towards the funding of fire brigades and it would be wrong for a surcharge to be levied after every false alarm.

That said, there’s a difference between one-off occurrences and those business premises where the alarm is sounded on a regular basis because of a technical fault or inadequate maintenance.

Like those motoring organisations which only respond up to three times a year to a specific vehicle that has broken down before levying a surcharge, perhaps the same should apply to fire alarms – the owner of the premises becomes financially liable if they’re responsible for three or more false alarms in a 12-month period. After all, it’s about taking personal responsibility – a concept that has become diminished – so firefighters can concentrate on responding to those fires, road accidents and industrial incidents which are a genuine matter of life and death to those concerned.

A Hull of a year

MOVE over London and Edinburgh, the traditional focal points of this country’s New Year celebrations. The fact that Hull became the most talked about city in the UK, certainly judging by the positive coverage in the national media, more than vindicates its new-found status as the UK City of Culture.

This is important. By taking public art to the masses in a city which has traditionally made national headlines for all the wrong reasons, not least the spiral of social decline after the collapse of traditional industries, Hull is – on day two of 2017 – already seizing the moment and showing to the world that it is now a vibrant destination in its own right with a strong sense of community pride.

If events continue in this positive light, it will make Hull’s economic case more alluring when its leaders seek to persuade employers to follow the example of energy giant Siemens and invest in the city. If this happens, it won’t just be Hull that reaps the rewards but the whole of Yorkshire.