From The Yorkshire Post, 17th August 2017
David Cameron was uncomfortably close to the truth when, in 2015, the then Prime Minister responded to a question on devolution by remarking – in an unguarded moment – that “we just thought people in Yorkshire hated everyone else, we didn’t realise they hated each other so much”.
This whole debate has been overshadowed by a lack of unanimity for years, and to the county’s detriment, as rival regions press ahead with new decision-making and spending powers. The then Tory leader’s exasperation was understandable.
However Mr Cameron’s charge can finally be nullified by the joint letter signed by leaders representing 17 out of Yorkshire’s 20 councils.
That this new ‘Coalition of the Willing’, forged to mark Yorkshire Day last month, believes it has a credible plan for a single mayor – and combined authority –to drive forward this region’s growth agenda is testament to the work that has been taking place behind-the-scenes. It would be remiss not to acknowledge this.
Yet, while Sheffield and Rotherham Councils still appear to favour the separate settlement for South Yorkshire that is still in play and Wakefield is choosing to exempt itself for reasons that its veteran leader Peter Box should now explain, this must not preclude the rest of the region from finessing its blueprint.
Equally encouraging – and refreshing – is the apparent pragmatism being shown by Ministers after this region’s leaders were galvanised into action by the fallout from Transport Secretary
Chris Grayling’s decision to tell the North to sort out its own difficulties while also expressing support for a second Crossrail scheme in London.
Having previously ruled out the now favoured One Yorkshire solution because a devolution deal on this size and scale would require new legislation, Jake Berry, the relatively new Northern
Powerhouse Minister, suggested this was not the case in response to a question from Keighley MP John Grogan. Crucially, he says any proposal would require “the consent of all councils concerned” so the response of Sheffield, Rotherham and Wakefield is awaited with interest. In the meantime, an early meeting between Yorkshire councils and Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, can only help. After all, a strong Yorkshire should lead to an even stronger Great Britain.