Business leader calls for ‘plan B’ if One Yorkshire dream blocked

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Yorkshire needs a “plan B” for devolution which can be deployed rapidly if the One Yorkshire deal falls apart, a leading business leader has said.

Natalie Sykes, regional director of the Institute of Directors in Yorkshire and the North-East, said she hoped that everyone in the region would get behind efforts to achieve a deal, saying it was unacceptable that Yorkshire had yet to achieve one.

Her comments come after the Confederation of British Industry director general Carolyn Fairbairn leant her backing to as wide a devolution deal for the region as possible last week.

Ms Sykes told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s important that everyone in the region gets behind achieving a political solution that maximises the opportunity 
for business to help build our future.

“It is also imperative that we have a ‘plan B’ that we can deploy rapidly should there be any barriers to a Yorkshire-wide deal.

“It simply is not acceptable that we are still at the drawing board and the heart of the Northern Powerhouse does not have a voice.”

The so-called One Yorkshire settlement to bring all of the region’s councils together hit a stumbling block last week when Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry said that he was not prepared to listen to plans for a region-wide deal.

It is now understood supporters of the One Yorkshire model are preparing to bypass Mr Berry’s department and instead take the case to Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Meanwhile chambers of commerce in the region distanced themselves from the One Yorkshire campaign.

Richard Wright, executive director of the chamber of commerce in Sheffield, said he favoured a model of devolution for just South Yorkshire despite Barnsley and Doncaster having walked away from it, and added such a deal would not preclude working ever more closely with the rest of Yorkshire.

He said: “We have to consider the bigger picture which includes the Northern Powerhouse and Transport for the North (TfN) and whether one Yorkshire Mayor is right for Yorkshire in that context. Four Yorkshire votes round the Northern Powerhouse table seems much more representative than one.

“If Leeds, Hull and York grab devolution deals, we can work together within the Northern Powerhouse. Sheffield is doing as much work with Manchester as it is with Leeds in many areas at the moment and we can also be working on a potential Yorkshire deal while that is going on.

“Finally, and crucially, the Government is not going to support a Yorkshire deal at this moment.”

Gerald Jennings, chair of West and North Yorkshire Chamber, said: “Devolution in Yorkshire remains a thorny issue and politicians of all persuasions need to reach agreement to ensure our region is not disadvantaged.

“Devolution has the potential to deliver new road and rail infrastructure, fund future training initiatives and ensure the region is in a stronger position to deal with Brexit because of the local knowledge that will be driving the decision making.”

Ian Kelly, chief executive of Hull and Humber chamber of commerce, said: “The problem with the whole Yorkshire deal is that it will be the size of a European country. If you consider what is happening in Catalonia now you can see the problems with political structures of that size. The Yorkshire model is a very political construct and we would like to see one which is based on an economic concept.”