A ‘shadow combined authority’ for all of Yorkshire could help the transition between a Sheffield city devolution deal and a wider solution for the whole region, a leading MP said today.
Speaking days after the intervention of the Archbishop of York in the devolution debate, Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis said an interim deal in South Yorkshire would be a stepping stone to Whitehall handing powers over to a single region-wide mayor.
It comes as the leader of Rotherham council, which wants to go ahead with the South Yorkshire deal signed by George Obsorne in 2015, warned the county could be left with nothing if the deadlock continues.
Earlier this week, The Yorkshire Post revealed that the Archbishop of York had written to Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry outlining a solution that could see a region-wide mayor elected by May 2020.
The plans outlined by the Church of England’s second most senior cleric, who met last month with local MPs, council leaders, trade union leaders and bishops, are a bid to overcome the Government’s objections to the proposed ‘One Yorkshire’ solution for a mayor presiding over a region of more than five million people.
He suggested the election of a Sheffield City Region mayor in May could pave the way for a two-year phased programme towards a Yorkshire-wide deal, and called for urgent steps to be taken to draw up plans by the end of January so that a mayor for all of Yorkshire could be elected in May 2020.
Labour MP Mr Jarvis, one of the most prominent supporters of a One Yorkshire deal, said the region had fallen behind other parts of the country, and added: “Let’s get on with catching up and then getting ahead.”
He said: “A devolved settlement for all of Yorkshire and the Humber is undoubtedly the best way of leveraging our collective clout and both enabling resilience and ensuring our collective success as Britain prepares to leave the EU in 2019.
“There’s a fair and pragmatic route through the current impasse which sees a negotiated agreement between Government and the South Yorkshire local authorities on an interim solution for the Sheffield City Region.
“This should include an opt-out for any of the four authorities, giving them a guarantee of the opportunity to participate in a wider Yorkshire agreement in due course.
“That would enable us to move forward with a Sheffield City Region deal as a stepping stone towards drawing the whole county together in 2020.
“All those local authorities across Yorkshire and Humber who support a Yorkshire agreement should then scope the formation of a cross-party shadow Yorkshire and Humber combined authority to work through the detail of the wider devolved settlement.”
During an event in South Yorkshire earlier this week organised by local newspapers and hosted by the BBC, politicians from both sides of the ongoing devolution divide in South Yorkshire met for a special debate. The consensus was that South Yorkshire deal should go ahead and discussions could take place about a wider proposal in the future.
Chris Whitwood from the Yorkshire Party, who stood for Doncaster Mayor in 2017, said the leaders of Sheffield and Rotherham were ‘not being ambitious enough’ but Chris Read, the leader of Rotherham council, suggested the region could ‘end up with nothing’. He said: “We have an obligation to take this forward - and we need the money coming into the region now.”