View from the B6255 in the Yorkshire Dales
Image Source: David Jones
Nick Hill

Can Yorkshire reach a region-wide devolution deal?

As announced earlier this week, the Sheffield mayoral election planned for May has been delayed until 2018 following a High Court ruling. As a result, the previously agreed £900m devolution deal for the Sheffield City Region (SCR) has been postponed.

The SCR was forced to delay the mayoral election after a High Court judgement required that further consultation was needed on whether Chesterfield in Derbyshire should join the combined authority, along with Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire.

Soon after this announcement, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority proposed a new devolution deal that would benefit the whole of Yorkshire. West Yorkshire’s council leaders released a joint statement in which they claim that the region’s authorities need to form a “strong workable economic partnership” in order to deliver the “best deal for Yorkshire.”

This proposal, however, hasn’t been positively received by Sheffield business leaders and MPs. For instance, Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, has came forward urging the region’s authority leaders to make a decision as to whether they are in or out of the Sheffield City Region, and to ensure that the devolution deal goes ahead as planned.

Mr Wright explained that he is was “flabbergasted” over the reactions to the delayment of the SCR devolution deal and mayoral election,. He also believes forming a Yorkshire LEP is “light years away.”

He said: “It smacks of opportunistic politics and vote chasing, rather than making a decision and driving it through.”

“If we can’t get agreement between the Local Authorities in the Sheffield City Region what hope have we across Yorkshire? There isn’t even a Combined Authority in Hull and Humber, and Leeds, West Yorkshire and the rest couldn’t even agree on a Devolution proposal.”

Analysis

The aim of devolution is to delegate power from the government to local authorities in British counties in order for them to have more control and the ability to make key decision for their regions.

This concept is crucial if regions across the country are to flourish in a post-Brexit Britain, especially those located in the north which are still driving towards the idea of creating a Northern Powerhouse.

As the largest region in the county, Yorkshire’s £88bn economic impact counts as approximately 7% of the UK’s total economic output. To realise the full potential of the region’s economy, sectors such as finance, legal, manufacturing, medical, digital, retail, hospitality and tourism, would greatly benefit if powers were devolved to its local authorities.

For the long-term, one body/council should be formed to oversee the entire region, which would be headed by a Yorkshire elected mayor.

This will only be attainable, however, if a collaborative effort between the region’s MPs exists. But as we have seen over the past week, there is a clear divide in what council leaders want to see.

What can be done?

As devolution is aimed at growing Yorkshire’s economy - whether it’s attracting more investment or improving connectivity and infrastructure - I would urge MPs to look for advice and guidance from established business leaders in the region.

Businesses within the region would undoubtedly take the opportunity to help contribute towards improving productivity in Yorkshire.

Allow companies and their leaders to form cohesion amongst one another, look at different strategies for forming a devolution deal along with local authorities, such as the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions, and let them play their part for the future of Yorkshire.

I, like many, would support a Yorkshire-wide devolution proposal if local authorities are willing to commit to a debate and final decision in the near future.

What do you think? Is a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal possible?

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