PARTY leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn has claimed Labour councils in Yorkshire are in danger of falling for a “cruel deception” which will leave them carrying the can for Conservative cutbacks.
Mr Corbyn launched a fierce attack on Chancellor George Osborne’s offer to give parts of Yorkshire greater local control in areas such as transport, planning, skills and even the health service when they agree to have elected mayors.
Labour councils across Yorkshire are involved in drawing up devolution plans to submit to the Treasury but Mr Corbyn, the left-winger who has emerged as the unlikely frontrunner in the race to succeed Ed Miliband, said Mr Osborne was offering to handover responsibilities without extra money.
However, he ruled out blocking Yorkshire’s Labour-run authorities from striking devolution deals with Mr Osborne if he becomes party leader in September.
Mr Corby said: “The Labour leader cannot doctate or control what everybody does. My message is essentially one of caution, of taking on central government resposibilities and services without the finance to cover it so they end up being purveyors of cuts on behalf of central government.
“I’m suggested in opposition we organise a national convention on our constitution which deals with the issues, yes, of the massive democratic deficit of the House of Lords, funding Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, but also English regions.
“Are we going to go into regional government or are we going to go into an extension of local government into regional authorities. Maybe a bit of both.
“Let’s at least talk aboput it but make sure the national resources are devolved that go with it so we don’t end up devolving the trappings of power without the resources to carry out the power to benefit the people of the area.”
In Yorkshire a series of alternative proposals are being developed in response to Mr Osborne’s devolution offer including a single elected mayor for the whole of Yorkshire or adopting a number of mayors based on areas covering major cities and their neighbours.
Councils in Greater Manchester have already secured significant local powers after reaching an agreement with Mr Osborne last year to create an elected mayor covering ten council areas.
On Twitter today, Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said Mr Corbyn’s criticism of devolution “completely ignores what Labour in the North is doing”.
Mr Corbyn was in Leeds today to launch his ‘Northern Future’ paper setting out his policies to help the economy of the North including Yorkshire.
He promised to rebalance transport spending in favour of the North, give all councils the power to regulate buses in the same way as London and to return rail franchises to the public sector.
Mr Corbyn called for measures to encourage graduates to stay in the North and for a full apology for the Government’s actions in the miners strike of the 1980s.
And he argued current Government policies designed to help grow the northern economy are too focused on cities.
Meanwhile, Andy Burnham launched an attack on Mr Corbyn’s policies. The shadow health secretary and the veteran left-winger, who have emerged as the two leading contenders in the contest, were fighting a battle of “big visions” about the future of the party and country, Mr Burnham said.
Mr Burnham appealed to Labour supporters not to take the party “backwards” as he launched a direct attack on Mr Corbyn’s economic plans, which include the possibility of the Bank of England effectively printing money to finance public investment.
He told the Evening Standard: “The bottom line is you don’t get out of first base at an election unless you have credibility on the economy and the public finances. I don’t believe that we did not win the election because we were not left-wing enough.”
Mr Corbyn’s surge in popularity has seen crowds pack out his meetings, and Mr Burnham acknowledged “the race has come to life”.