Yorkshire devolution: Politician can’t be too precious about their own areas, says Conservative council leader

Ian Gillies, leader of City of York Council.
Ian Gillies, leader of City of York Council.
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Politicians in Yorkshire shouldn’t be “too precious about their own areas” in the ongoing dispute over the future of devolution in the region, according to a Conservative council leader.

Ian Gillies, the leader of City of York Council, says a “Yorkshire product” would be the best option and that he has made the case to Ministers about the benefits of a devolution deal covering the region.

York is among 18 of the region’s 20 councils backing a One Yorkshire agreement for vital powers and resources to be handed to a single mayor covering the region of 5.3 million people.

The Government is still considering a detailed proposal set out by leaders in March, while Sheffield and Rotherham councils have yet to back the plans and want to pursue the more limited Sheffield City Region deal agreed in 2015.

Coun Gillies took over as leader of City of York Council after the letter to Ministers had been signed by his predecessor David Carr, but told The Yorkshire Post he “very much” supported the idea.

He said: “I won’t call it pan-Yorkshire because that means nothing, but a Yorkshire product would be the best for the region.”

When I was Lord Mayor I used to start speeches by saying I was the Lord Mayor of the finest city in the finest county in the finest country in the world, and I really believe that.

Ian Gillies

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He added: “When I was Lord Mayor I used to start speeches by saying I was the Lord Mayor of the finest city in the finest county in the finest country in the world, and I really believe that.

“We’ve got everything, but the problems that exist in the Dales and the Moors are different to the problems that exist in the city centres and urban areas.”

Coun Gillies said it was important to acknowledge the different challenges across a diverse region but said: “I don’t think politicians can be too precious about their own areas, they’ve got to look at the generic viewpoint.”

He added: “I know that people in Skipton think it has more in common with Bradford than North Yorkshire, it is in North Yorkshire, but I would have thought most people in Skipton would have more affinity with Bradford.

“But they learn to live with it, and I think we would all learn to live with it, because Yorkshire is the product.”

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The council leader said York badly needed its northern ring road and the A64 east towards Scarborough to become a dual carriageway, but that these projects were too expensive to be paid for locally and needed central government funding.

Coun Gillies, who has recently been appointed to the board of strategic body Transport for the North, said he wanted to see transport powers devolved, adding: “We know what we need and what we want.”

He said: “We are putting six or seven new roundabouts in on the northern ring road but that is a sticking plaster. That is West Yorkshire Combined Authority spend.

“We need about five times as much. Dualling the northern ring road is vital to the economy of York and to stop it choking.”