Yorkshire leaders unite in letter to Boris Johnson to set out blueprint for future of devolution

Yorkshire leaders have united in taking on beefed-up powers over the blueprint of devolution with a commitment to push for a One Yorkshire deal by 2022.

By Geraldine Scott
Saturday, 12th October 2019, 6:45 am
Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry speaking at the One Yorkshire Devolution conference in March. Photo: JPI Media
Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry speaking at the One Yorkshire Devolution conference in March. Photo: JPI Media

At a meeting of local authority heads yesterday, it was agreed to write a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson following his visit to Rotherham last month.

During the visit Mr Johnson announced he was keen for devolution deals in Leeds and West Yorkshire, and he left the door open for a future One Yorkshire deal.

But he said a Yorkshire committee must drive the change, and now a strengthened group of Yorkshire leaders will push forward for vast steps forward.

The letter to the PM, signed by the majority of local leaders apart from those in Sheffield and Rotherham, said: “We welcomed your renewed commitment to the devolution agenda [...] and were pleased to hear you wish to open up negotiations to unlock devolution in our region.”

And it said the new Yorkshire Committee - an evolution of the existing Leaders’ Board - would be “strengthened” to work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to work on “interim sub-regional devolution arrangements in all parts of the region” but also to “develop an overarching devolution model for Yorkshire to be implemented in 2022 for those that wish to be part of this”.

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It is understood any smaller dealer reached in the meantime would be time-limited to 2022.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry said: "I welcome the suggestions from our friends and partners in Yorkshire.

"We will now work with leaders across the region to progress devolution deals in Yorkshire, something the Prime Minister and I have been clear we want to see happen as quickly as possible.

"Half of all people in the North are now represented by powerful Metro Mayors, but we want to see the other half benefit from devolution too."

It is understood Mr Berry has been tasked by Mr Johnson to oversee devolution and get progress moving.

The committee would also look to develop a Yorkshire response to climate change, as well as a plan to tackle “the challenges and opportunities arising from Brexit”, giving new focus.

It comes after a delegation led by the Archbishop of York John Sentamu travelled to Westminster on Tuesday to lobby political parties to include a promise of a One Yorkshire deal in their upcoming manifestos.

The letter added: “We look forward to agreeing with you how to formalise your commitments and how to progress interim arrangements at the earliest opportunity.”

Sheffield City Region Mayor and Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis said: “Our letter to the PM represents a pragmatic approach to moving forward with devolution for Yorkshire.

“At a moment of national political crisis it’s heartening to see Yorkshire’s political leaders working together and standing up for Yorkshire.

“We all want to see devolution unlocked so we can realise the significant benefits for our communities and residents.

“We now need the Government to work with us to make it happen.”

Mr Johnson previously hinted that if Yorkshire was to bag a region-wide deal, leaders needed to show they wanted it and could work together.

He said: “My experience is that the way to drive things like infrastructure spend and the way to champion a local area is that you have got to have political figures who believe in it, who love it and will stand up and mount the barricades and say ‘come here, invest now’.”