Smith promises ‘better deal’

Owen Smith
Owen Smith
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LABOUR leadership contender Owen Smith will not order West Yorkshire council leaders to break off devolution talks with the Government if he becomes party leader.

Mr Smith criticised the Conservative Government’s approach to English devolution but ruled out imposing a blanket ban on Labour-led Leeds and its neighbours agreeing so-called devolution deals.

South Yorkshire councils have already agreed a deal to take more control over their own affairs with then chancellor George Osborne and Labour council leaders across the rest of the region remain in talks with the Government over similar agreements.

The decision to negotiate with the Conservatives has previously been in a major source of tension between Labour council leaders and the national party leadership.

Asked if he would try and stop the discussions, Mr Smith told the YEP: “No, I’d be listening to Labour council leaders.

“Some devolution is better than no devolution for sure but we could do a better deal for council leaders, Labour and Tory council leaders.

“We could offer, I think, a much more fair sharing of power. The danger with the Tories is what they are proposing to do is share power but not resources.

“The danger is we end up entrenching regional differences.”

The Pontypridd MP was speaking in Yorkshire over the weekend as he tried to persuade Labour members to back his challenge to current leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour members will start voting in the contest this week with the result due to be announced on September 24.

The majority of Labour MPs are backing Mr Smith but Mr Corbyn enjoys significant support among grassroots members.