THE FUTURE leadership, and governance, of Yorkshire is becoming clearer after the region’s political and business leaders submitted various devolution bids to the Treasury rather than one over-arching proposal for the whole of the county.
Though the final details are still to emerge, it appears that local leaders have come to the conclusion that a fragmented approach might yield a greater economic dividend than an united approach which maximised this region’s greatest asset – the iconic Yorkshire brand.
And this is the conundrum that the region’s council chiefs – and Chancellor George Osborne for that matter – must reconcile. Have they struck the best possible deal so Yorkshire’s major cities can increase their wealth-creating opportunities? Has sufficient regard been given to the region’s countryside and coastal communities that have paid second fiddle to the city-regions until now? Will the county come, with the passage of time, to regard this as a missed opportunity because of the reluctance of senior politicians to speak with one voice?
As such, it is important that these questions are answered now before any devolution deal is signed off. By then, it will be too late – the wheels will already have been set in motion and any indecision will send out the wrong message to those entrepreneurs who might be looking to relocate here.
There’s one concluding point which also needs to be taken on board if Yorkshire’s local authorities pursue a more federal approach. Many of the challenges facing the region – whether it be transport, digital infrastructure, skills training, health provision and tourism – transcends council boundaries. Rather than the petty parochialism of the past that has pitched city against city, and so on, there will be far greater levels of co-operation between authorities – and agencies –if this new structure is to deliver for Yorkshire. There is much still to prove.
Refugee response: David Cameron on the defensive
ONLY time will tell whether David Cameron’s decision for Britain to accept “thousands more” refugees from camps on the borders of war-torn Syria is a pragmatic response or another example of the Prime Minister pandering to his critics – the Tory leader’s latest response was noteworthy for its lack of detail.
This is a problem for Mr Cameron. The longer that the Government is seen to be prevaricating, the more it plays into the hands of those civic leaders who are offering to provide refuge for 100 stricken families on humanitarian grounds – provided that Ministers foot the bill for housing and other costs.
However, while the harrowing images of the bodies of the Syrian brothers being washed up on a Turkish beach continues to haunt the world, and rightly so, the response of the Government – and the rest of Europe for that matter – does need to be co-ordinated. A piecemeal approach will simply not work.
That said, Mr Cameron has allowed himself to become stuck on the wrong side of the political argument when it is Britain which is already donating £900m in assistance to the Syria refugee camps – more than any other European country. After all, the Department for International Development exists for crises like this. Perhaps one solution is for a greater proportion of its budget to be spent on assisting those refugees who are genuinely attempting to escape from persecution rather than frittering it away on ineffective schemes in other parts of the world in an attempt to justify Britain’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of annual GDP on overseas aid.
Hull of an omission: BBC is blasted over Blitz series
HOW typical of the southern-centric BBC that it has chosen to ignore Hull in its new series charting the history of the Blitz – and the unforgiving damage inflicted 75 years ago by Hitler’s Luftwaffe as the Battle of Britain was being waged.
Just because national security considerations prevented the reporting of the Hull raids at the time – a D Notice was only lifted 30 years later – does not lessen their historical significance. More than 93 per cent of homes were damaged while 152,000 people were made homeless.
Yet the reverberations of the Luftwaffe’s bombing raids were felt for decades as this proud city tried to emerge from the ruins before being dealt a heavy blow with the decline of traditional manufacturing industries. The fact that the BBC has decided to to overlook the solidarity shown by the people of Hull through good times and bads reflects poorly on a London-based Corporation sadly out of touch with its viewers in the North.