Yorkshire council leaders unite behind devolution deal on county's special day

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 1 Aug 2017

Council leaders across Yorkshire have officially joined forces for the first time to back a devolution deal for the whole region.

They have chosen today's annual Yorkshire Day celebrations to formally announce the move.

Under a so-called 'coalition of willing', they have pledged to work together to get a single deal headed by a directly-elected mayor.

It follows years of disagreement across the region over how it should respond to the government's devolution agenda.

READ MORE: Brexit could scupper Yorkshire devolution deal

In stark contrast, Manchester has forged ahead with ten councils uniting behind a combined authority now led by Mayor Andy Burnham, the former Labour health secretary.

In return, the Greater Manchester authority has been given more control over issues such as transport, planning, housing and skills training.

Mayor Burnham has also taken over responsibility for police and fire services covering the Greater Manchester area.

Council leaders in Hull and the East Riding have long pressed for a Yorkshire-wide deal but, until recently, continued to face strong opposition from their counterparts in West Yorkshire who preferred a deal based around Leeds.

Hull City Council leader Cllr Stephen Brady on the balcony of City Hall

That obstacle now appears to have been removed, although a separate deal involving Sheffield and Rotherham which has been in the mix for months would still be supported if council leaders there still want to pursue it.

In a statement, the Yorkshire Leaders' Board said: "Today is Yorkshire Day and therefore it seems right to talk today about our county, its ambitions and our identity.

"Last Friday Yorkshire leaders met in York in a positive and constructive meeting and agreed they have strong common cause.

"The county is big enough and bold enough to want to carve out its own destiny. Leaders were focused on increasing productivity and growing and inclusive economy that works for all.

"The leaders agreed unanimously to form a 'coalition of willing, working towards a single, ambitious devolution deal for the Yorkshire authorities and areas wanting to work together on this basis.

"This would, in the first instance, be based on the government's present requirements of a directly-elected mayor with clear responsibilities yet to be determined.

"All leaders present, including Barnsley and Doncaster, supported this approach as well as supporting a deal for Sheffield and Rotherham, should they seek to pursue that as an option.

"Over the coming weeks, the leaders committed to exploring these proposals with colleagues, local stakeholders, including MPs, business, unions and political groups.

"Leaders plan to meet again in early September to decide how best to take this negotiation forward with government at pace and with local backing.

"It is a happy Yorkshire Day across the whole of this great and historic county - a county with potential for as great a future as a past."

MP Andrew Percy (Cons, Brigg and Goole) had backed the Yorkshire move as former Northern Powerhouse Minister, while Melanie Onn (Lab, Grimsby) was keen on a Humber-wide agreement, which now looks dead in the water, with plans for Greater Lincolnshire - backed by Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers - also scuppered. 

North and North East Lincolnshire councils, having struggled to bring Hull and East Yorkshire onside, were part of a failed attempt to launch a Greater Lincolnshire devolution deal, but both report stronger links with the North Bank now. 

Leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, Cllr Ray Oxby, pictured above, said: "Our position throughout the prolonged devolution debate has been to ensure the best deal for North East Lincolnshire and nothing will change on that. Our support for pursuing a Greater Lincolnshire deal, which ultimately didn’t go ahead, helped cement the area’s reputation with ministers and civil servants and has resulted in the development of the Town Deal proposal, which was this week signed off for submission to Government.

"If successful, that will bring  millions of pounds worth of investment into the area and could become the blueprint for how similar towns across the country work with central government on regeneration.

"Our approach will remain pragmatic in terms of considering any potential involvement in any relevant devolution deals as they move forward, but to this point in terms of this latest proposal, it is just a plan of what people would like to do rather than any concrete proposals to be considered."

MORE: Today's main headlines from Humberbusiness.com 

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