From Yorkshire Post, July 11th, 2018
Written by Arj Singh
Civic leaders will hold key talks on ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution on Thursday with their unity tested after the Local Government Secretary refused to open discussions on a deal backed by the overwhelming majority. James Brokenshire has written to Sheffield City Region (SCR) Mayor Dan Jarvis and all the region’s 20 councils, 18 of which support a One Yorkshire deal, to say the Government is “not prepared” to discuss the proposals as they currently stand.
Mr Jarvis is a leading supporter of One Yorkshire and was elected SCR Mayor on a pledge to pursue a transfer of money and powers from Westminster to a pan-regional authority.
But Mr Brokenshire has insisted Doncaster and Barnsley, which pulled out of the SCR deal to back One Yorkshire after overwhelming community referenda on the issue, must live up to their previous commitments before he is even willing to open discussions on an alternative.
Sheffield and Rotherham still favour the SCR deal.
In a letter obtained by The Yorkshire Post, Mr Brokenshire said: “Until the Sheffield City Region deal is fully implemented, the Government is not prepared to enter into any discussion about wider devolution arrangements that would include some or all of the SCR authorities.”
But Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones and Barnsley council leader Sir Steve Houghton in a joint statement said they want an “interim” SCR deal “in the context of an understanding and acknowledgement that our longer term future lies beyond an artificial county boundary which is not an economic footprint and is no longer fit for purpose”.
Labour MP for Keighley John Grogan backed their call as an “obvious compromise”.
He said: “I regard this as very much an opening gambit by the Minister. I think the Secretary of State knows full well that the Mayor of South Yorkshire was elected on a platform of moving to one Yorkshire devolution.”
Tory ex-Minister Robert Goodwill insisted the region needs a mayor with the stature of those in Manchester or Liverpool.
The Scarborough and Whitby MP said: “There’s been too much trying to draw the lines around various bits of Yorkshire to create safe Tory or Labour dominions.
“I can’t see somebody represented a couple of North Yorkshire local authorities, North and East Yorkshire for example, getting that seat around the table with the Chancellor or the Prime Minister, that the leaders of those big conurbations have.”
But Thirsk and Malton Tory MP Kevin Hollinrake questioned why the Government would trust Doncaster and Barnsley not to pull out of another deal.
The West Yorkshire Combined Authority called for One Yorkshire to be in place by 2020 to deliver “huge benefits” for the whole UK economy.