Stewart Golton: It’s time for a fair deal for Yorkshire

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Politics has been dominated by deals recently. This last election was called to supposedly give the Prime Minister a stronger hand in making a deal with the 27 nations of the European continent.

However, it ended up being about making a deal with 10 MPs on the Western edge of the UK. Nobody saw that coming.

Northern Ireland will now get an extra £1bn for its infrastructure and public services, for a territory with a population roughly that of Leeds and Bradford combined. Meanwhile we are expected to get excited about £173m for our transport needs after 20 years of nothing waiting for Supertram.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all been promised a chair at the table to discuss Britain’s Brexit negotiating stance, recognising the varying concerns of different parts of the UK. But what about Yorkshire?

Every one of these areas has their own devolved assembly and leaders. Some might say Yorkshire doesn’t want another set of politicians and civil servants, but every one of those devolved assemblies comes with more public money which means that every man, woman and child has more spent on their behalf in those regions than we do here in Yorkshire. Is that fair?

Lately, some have watched longingly over the Pennines as Manchester and Birmingham elected their city region mayors, while council leaders here fall out in lumps over whether they could bear to live under a ‘Leeds’ City Region mayor and authority. The Government of course uses this excuse not to make a deal with us, because we can’t get our own house in order.

However, it’s time to call out the Government on this. They can’t say Yorkshire is too divided to do a deal with, then bung £1bn to Northern Ireland through a deal with a party that brought down power sharing and threatens the peace process.

But how do we show the Government that we are serious about not being taken for granted as a region? The Yorkshire Party popped up at this election, but they haven’t shown the potential to threaten the main parties like the SNP has, nor to be potential coalition partners like the DUP, and was ignored by the voters.

We have to work with the politicians we have got. We’ve 54 MPs, and quite a few council leaders. If they all really wanted to represent the best interests of their constituents, they would want to see more money and power devolved down to our region so we were not second class citizens, short changed and enfeebled in making our own future.

In the absence of any consensus on the geography for devolution on elected mayors, our politicians could at least agree to more effectively hold the Government to account for their decisions that affect our region.

We should be challenging our politicians to work cross party to get a better deal for Yorkshire on every front, from the NHS, housebuilding, transport and tourism spending. Finally, we should insist, cross party, on the appointment of a Minister for Yorkshire, accountable for performance on these spending figures.

Perhaps, through such political common purpose, championing our shared Yorkshire identity, some of the divisive and cynical politics seen of late can be left behind and the electorate can take comfort in politicians working for something bigger than just their own majority or party interest.

* Stewart Golton is Lib Dem group leader at Leeds City Council

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