Boost for One Yorkshire devolution as Treasury weighs up Â£30bn-a-year economic case
The prospects of a One Yorkshire devolution deal have been given a boost after the detailed submission setting out the Â£30bn-a-year benefits of the arrangement was handed to Treasury officials to analyse its economic arguments.
The development came after Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry met with Yorkshire’s leaders and suggested the devolution deadlock could be broken by handing over powers and resources in several smaller deals rather than one covering the whole region.
Political leaders in Yorkshire fear the failure to secure devolution from Whitehall to the region has left it at a disadvantage compared with neighbouring areas with influential metro mayors like Manchester’s Andy Burnham and Ben Houchen in the Tees Valley, who have already reached agreement with Ministers.
In October, 18 of the region’s council leaders and Sheffield City Region metro mayor Dan Jarvis submitted detailed documents to the Government which showed a One Yorkshire deal could give the region’s economy a Â£30bn annual boost. The independently-produced document says there are “potentially considerable advantages from devolution to the Yorkshire level”.
Mr Berry has previously insisted that his department would not discuss the proposals until the stalled Sheffield City Region devolution deal was fully implemented.
But Carl Les, the Tory leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said he was encouraged by a conference call with Mr Berry and other North Yorkshire political leaders earlier this month.
He said Mr Berry told them that the One Yorkshire document had been passed from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to the Treasury, something Coun Les said meant it would “get an evaluation based on economic grounds rather than just political grounds”.
Last month, Mr Jarvis claimed the Treasury was sympathetic to the economic case for One Yorkshire devolution and that the proposals had support among Cabinet ministers.
After the conference call leaders from North Yorkshire, the City of York and the county’s districts met in York to discuss the best way forward. A meeting of all Yorkshire council leaders will take place on January 11.
Coun Les said: “Jake had one or two suggestions to us about the pace that One Yorkshire might go at. He suggested that perhaps we should look at what the opposition would call the Balkanisation of Yorkshire.
“What he was referring to was having smaller areas of Yorkshire that could be got over the line much quicker.
“The meeting in York was to explore that and to see what sort of appetite we had for it. Views were mixed about it and whether it is the right way to go.
“We are still part of that ‘coalition of the willing’. If One Yorkshire is not acceptable and is not going to go anywhere we might consider going for something like a York city region. But we would prefer to see One Yorkshire get over the line.”
A Treasury spokesman pointed to a statement made in the Commons last month by Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, saying officials “will respond to any proposals that we receive in good faith, assuming that they are able to provide for economic growth in a clearly defined economic geography”.
Mr Jenrick added: “We have said that to progress this matter we want to see the Sheffield City Region become fully functioning and the mayor, who is now elected, able to conduct his duties.”
An MHCLG spokesperson said:“We are taking time to properly consider devolution proposals from the 18 Yorkshire Authorities and Ministers have had private meetings with a number of local leaders to discuss them further.
“Our priority is completing the Sheffield City Region deal so people can enjoy all of the benefits, including Â£900 million of investment.
“The City Region Mayor was elected on a commitment to implement it, and we will support him in this ambition.”