I'll open up devolution talks with Leeds and West Yorkshire, Boris Johnson tells northern leaders

Boris Johnson has promised to open up negotiations with Leeds and West Yorkshire to finally end the long-running devolution deadlock, while leaving the door open for a transfer of powers to cover the entire region.

Friday, 13th September 2019, 4:12 pm
Updated Friday, 13th September 2019, 5:12 pm
Boris Johnson speaks at the Convention of the North conference in Rotherham. Pic: Getty Images

Promising to "do devolution properly" in his speech in Rotherham today, the Prime Minister said a new 'Yorkshire committee' of local leaders would be a practical step for getting the region's authorities to work together.

In an addressed interrupted by a heckler who demanded to know when MPs would be going back to Parliament to make progress on Brexit, he described the "real enthusiasm for devolution" in Yorkshire.

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A transfer of powers and money from central government has yet to be fully achieved despite Greater Manchester, Liverpool and the Tees Valley all signing deals.

The Sheffield City Region deal signed by South Yorkshire leaders in 2015 has yet to be introduced, meaning metro mayor Dan Jarvis was elected with virtually no powers or resources.

The PM told the audience of northern leaders: "We are committed to getting the Sheffield City Region done – and I also want to open up negotiations with Leeds and West Yorkshire so we can make a mayor work there too, whatever the nature of any longer term arrangements in Yorkshire."

In an interview with The Yorkshire Post last week the Tory leader said he was "mad keen" in principle on a One Yorkshire deal where a single metro mayor would be elected for the region of 5.2 million people.

Boris Johnson speaks at the Convention of the North conference in Rotherham. Pic: Getty Images

And asked how quickly a West Yorkshire deal could be progressed, he said the Government would get on with it "as fast as possible".

He said: "Whether it leads to a deal for the whole of Yorkshire or not, that is very much a matter of consultation and decision led by local people.

“I know that there are different views. And I’ve been I’ve been speedily acquainted of those different views and the strength of feeling which is held on either side. There are clearly different areas that could elect a mayor and I think that there needs to be further work done on that precise geographical division.”

Arianna Giovannini, interim director of the think-tank IPPR North, said: “It is welcome to hear the Prime Minister talk of his support for more devolution. But one thing is clear- devolution will not and cannot work if it is shaped by Government rather than local people.

"Support alone is not enough. We need to see real powers and funding being devolved to all northern leaders.

“Devolution to Yorkshire is also to be welcomed. Setting up a Yorkshire Committee is a step in the right direction - but more needs to be done by central government to give local leaders across the region the levers they need to shape the future of Yorkshire from the grassroots.”