Yorkshire’s political leaders today hit back at the Government in the ongoing row over a region-wide devolution deal as they called for Ministers to offer “a constructive approach and rapid progress in the coming weeks and months”.
Eighteen of the region’s 20 council leaders and metro mayor Dan Jarvis remained united in response to the claim by new Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire that he was currently “not prepared” to discuss a One Yorkshire deal.
Mr Brokenshire’s letter said the Government would only enter into discussions about a wider devolution deal once the more limited Sheffield City Region deal, first agreed in 2015, was implemented in full.
The intervention came as a surprise to leaders in Yorkshire, who in March had submitted detailed proposals for what a One Yorkshire deal would look like and had not had a formal response from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
After meeting in York today, they issued a joint statement on behalf of all Yorkshire’s councils other than Sheffield and Rotherham vowing to “deliver what the people of Yorkshire want, what the region deserves and what could benefit the whole of the UK”.
It said: “Having promised to give careful consideration to the One Yorkshire proposal, Yorkshire leaders were disappointed the Government’s response earlier this week was a three paragraph letter placing obstacles to achieving a devolution settlement and not addressing the detail of the proposal.
“The One Yorkshire proposal has the cross-party support of 18 authorities and the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, ready to deliver a devolution deal right now which would offer huge benefits for the region and the wider UK economy. With the constructive support of the Government, an agreement can be in place and a Mayor for One Yorkshire elected by 2020.
“Yorkshire leaders were clear that they stand together - united to deliver One Yorkshire working with a constructive partner in Government.
“Yorkshire leaders have tasked officers with continuing to develop the One Yorkshire plan in line with the demands set out by the Government and expect the Government to respond with a constructive approach and rapid progress in the coming weeks and months.
“They invited the Government to be involved in the economic study of the rationale behind the One Yorkshire proposition which is being undertaken now and will be completed in the coming months. They also stated their willingness to travel together to London at any time to progress discussions with Ministers.
“The 19 leaders called upon the Government to help meet its own conditions by accelerating the delivery of the Sheffield City Region devolution deal whilst assuring those who want to join One Yorkshire that option will be available to them as early as 2020.”
Battle lines have been drawn over the future of devolution in Yorkshire since last year, when 17 council leaders backed a transfer of powers and funding to a single mayor representing the region of 5.3 million people.
Wakefield leader Peter Box has since also backed the idea, though Rotherham and Sheffield councils remain committed to the Sheffield City Region deal they agreed with ex-Chancellor George Osborne in 2015.
In September, Doncaster and Barnsley leaders pulled out of the Sheffield deal, meaning that Mr Jarvis was elected in May with virtually no powers or resources.