Yorkshire Mayor debate ‘could leave county divided’

Eight-year-old Raeleigh Guest from Rotherham celebrates at a Yorkshire Day event at Wentbridge House Hotel near Pontefract. Picture: Scott Merrylees
Eight-year-old Raeleigh Guest from Rotherham celebrates at a Yorkshire Day event at Wentbridge House Hotel near Pontefract. Picture: Scott Merrylees
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CRUCIAL talks will take place next week amid fears the creation of a mayor to unite Yorkshire could instead leave the county divided, with many areas frozen out.

Concern is growing that a bid for a mayor covering the Leeds City Region could effectively cut North Yorkshire in half and leave all of East Yorkshire without devolution.

Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire council

Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire council

And it could also raise serious questions about the future of North Yorkshire Council, and the services it provides.

The initial idea was for a mayor to cover all of Yorkshire, but politicians in South Yorkshire have already indicated they are not in favour, feeling the area is too big. Some are also keen to build on their links with parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

This has led to calls from the north and east of the region to have a Greater Yorkshire mayor, covering the west, north and east of the county.

But some politicians in West Yorkshire favour a Leeds City Region mayor, which would cover West Yorkshire, along with York, Harrogate, Craven, Selby and Barnsley.

The initial idea of a Yorkshire mayor was to allow the Yorkshire brand to be used to greater effect in attracting investment. And Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire Council, said a Leeds City Region mayor “worries me greatly”.

“Some in West Yorkshire are resisting the Greater Yorkshire model. Speaking for myself and for the north Yorkshire councils, and also Hull and East Riding, we are very disappointed.

“It worries me greatly that north and east could be left out. It would divide the county, with some having devolution and some not.

“There are also practical issues. If you have an elected mayor in the Leeds City Region responsible for policing, where does that leave the rest of north Yorkshire which has a police commissioner?

“We want to commit to a Greater Yorkshire and work with councils in the west. We haven’t fallen out and I’m going to see the leader of Leeds on Monday, and North Yorkshire will continue to work with Leeds and the Leeds City Region.”

His comments were echoed by Nigel Pearson, East Riding chief executive, and Darryl Stephenson, Hull Council chief executive, who said: “Hull is Yorkshire’s only port of any size and we are Yorkshire’s gateway to the Humber ports. If you can run Scotland and Wales on a devolved basis there’s no reason why you cannot have Greater Yorkshire on a devolved basis. It just needs some brave thinking from politicians.”

It is understood Leeds prefers a mayor to cover as large a part of Yorkshire as possible, but some members of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority favour the Leeds City Region route.

David Green, Bradford Council leader, said: “I don’t think a Yorkshire wide mayor would be able to do the job that needs doing without an incredible level of bureaucracy and additional cost. I have been part of the discussions with other authority members and think a Leeds City Region mayor works in terms of economic linkages.

“I think you would end up with a Yorkshire mayor being pulled from pillar to post by competing demands across the piece.”

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This might be a tough ask... Take our Yorkshire Day quiz

• The Yorkshire Post is to hold a public debate entitled Does Yorkshire Need A Mayor? on September 17 and we are inviting you to take part.

The panel will include Chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Wakefield Council leader Peter Box, Yorkshire MEP Timothy Kirkhope and Andrew Carter of the think tank Centre for Cities.

More panel members for the Question Time-style event will be announced soon.

If you would like to attend please contact Jayne.lownsbrough@jpress.co.uk