MANY people will agree with Dan Jarvis MP when he argues that more power and money should be devolved to people in Yorkshire. Time and again, decisions made in Westminster don’t address the needs of places like Barnsley and the economy suffers as a result.
However, the idea now being promoted by Mr Jarvis and local councillors, a devolution deal based on the county boundaries of Yorkshire, is not necessarily a solution to any of these problems. Indeed, the One Yorkshire idea poses many risks and is just as likely to see our area continue to fall behind other parts of the country as they move on with devolution while we remain distracted.
Time is of the essence in the current political and economic climate. But even the proponents of One Yorkshire have to admit that the current Government don’t support this idea and so a devolution deal is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
The experience of devolution in other areas, such as Greater Manchester or the West Midlands, has been one of steady progress and constant evolution – with mutual trust being created that brings further powers and more public money. So while the £300m promised for the Sheffield City Region (£30m a year over 30 years) is modest in the context of wider Government spending, it’s the direction of travel that’s important not the initial amount of money. Greater Manchester’s first devolution deal was similarly modest, but since then it has won another three seperate such deals over the last three years, each one delivering more power and money. The Chancellor’s announcements this month will add to this total.
Some of the leading lights in Greater Manchester are already talking about fiscal devolution, the ability to raise taxes and invest money so that big projects can be delivered with minimum Government interferance. At the same time, the leaders of Barnsley, Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster couldn’t even agree where to put our HS2 station (it should be in Sheffield City Centre by the way). This makes us look like a risky investment in the eyes of a Westminster-based politician or a potential inward investor based in China or India.
Politicians in South Yorkshire still have time – even if they would rather see a One Yorkshire deal in the longer term, they need to get round the table and start to make the Shefield City Region work for the people in South Yorkshire now, before we lose even more investment and opportunities.