THE COnservative MP and entrepreneur Kevin Hollinrake has called for Yorkshire to unite behind plans for a region-wide mayor or risk losing a decade of growth.
Speaking at the Yorkshire Finance Director Awards, the chairman of Hunters estate agency chain said the region needs a William Hague, Alan Johnson or other high-profile character to make a compelling business case for investment in infrastructure projects.
He warned that the ongoing talks to devolve powers from Whitehall to town halls have become mired in local politics and said business leaders must make their voices heard if they support the bid for a greater Yorkshire settlement.
Mr Hollinrake showed the audience at Aspire in Leeds a 3D heat map representing the spread of gross value added - the value of goods and services produced in an area - across the country.
He said: “You can see quite clearly that London is massive powerhouse. You can see that Birmingham is a bit of powerhouse. You can see Manchester and the North West doing pretty well but Yorkshire is a bit of a pimple. It means we have got a huge opportunity.
“Hopefully everyone in this room is doing really well but we can do so much better with a really strong economy. How do we develop the Yorkshire economy? This is where the devolution debate is going.”
Mr Hollinrake said the debate started after the Government “threw the kitchen sink” at Scotland to persuade it remain part of the UK and “suddenly the rest of the country starting asking... are we getting our fair share?”
“The reality is we are not getting our fair share. For every pound spent in Yorkshire, there is £6.50 spent in London and the South East on transport and infrastructure. It is just plain wrong. It is no wonder you have that huge mountain over London (on the heat map).”
Mr Hollinrake said the success of hosting the Tour de France demonstrated the economic benefits of towns, cities and rural areas in Yorkshire working together for a collective purpose.
He added: “We have got our industrial heartlands, our legal and financial centre in Leeds, we have one of the largest ports in Europe and the green energy opportunity in Hull, we have our tourism, food and farming in North Yorkshire, we have our beautiful cities and towns like York and Harrogate.
“I certainly believe that we should be working on a more regional context, bringing all those things together in a greater Yorkshire bid. Because otherwise, if you always do what you have always done, you are always going to get what you have always got. And we might end up being back here in five or ten years time looking at a similar graph on the wall.”
Mr Hollinrake said he asked special advisors at the Department for Transport about the big disparity between public spending in London and Yorkshire and was told it was because the region has failed to make the business case.
He co-founded Hunters in 1992 and floated it on the stock exchange this year. He entered Parliament in May.