Political leaders will today make the case to a key government Minister that Yorkshire has a vital role to play in fuelling the UK’s future prosperity as they unite behind the £30bn-a-year proposals for region-wide devolution.
Council leaders and metro mayor Dan Jarvis will use an historic summit at Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, to persuade Communities Secretary James Brokenshire of the strength of commitment that remains behind the One Yorkshire proposals.
Mr Brokenshire recently said the plans for a single mayoral authority representing the region of 5.2 million people, with resources and a host of powers transferred from central government, did not fit the Whitehall criteria for devolution.
And the Yorkshire leaders representing both major parties will use today’s meeting to better understand the Government’s reasons for rejecting the submission and show that the deal will help deliver national priorities such as building much-needed homes.
Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry warned in a conference speech in Leeds this week of the risk of creating a second ‘North-South divide’ between rural and urban areas if too much focus was put in cities.
And regional leaders will highlight how the One Yorkshire deal, which officials say could boost the economy by £30bn a year, will make the most of post-Brexit opportunities in urban, rural and coastal areas to boost skills, transport links and trade performance.
Carl Les, the Tory leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said 17 of the region’s 20 council leaders remained united behind the project despite district authority Hambleton pulling out. He said: “There will be changes in this country post-Brexit, there will be changes in Yorkshire and we can seize the opportunity better if we speak as one region rather than 17 or 18 parts of the region.”
Beckie Hart, CBI Regional Director for Yorkshire and the Humber, said One Yorkshire would have “significantly benefited the county’s economy” and called for urgent clarity from the Government.
Sir Steve Houghton, Labour leader of Barnsley council, said: “The Yorkshire leaders met on Monday and reiterated their desire for a Yorkshire devolution deal and to recognise that we have 17 councils, business support and trade union support.
“That is still right and we want the Government to take a step back and have another look.”
In his letter rejecting One Yorkshire this month, James Brokenshire suggested he may be open to discussions on other devolution models such as a Leeds City Region deal.
Leaders will stress that a region-wide deal works because of the scale of ambition and the value of the Yorkshire brand, adding that the Leeds City Region deal has already been rejected by Ministers.
Talks over the stalled Sheffield City Region deal, signed in 2015, remain at an impasse. And political leaders will insist that for the agreement to be implemented in full there must be signs of a way forward for Yorkshire devolution.