One Yorkshire Rejection

The One Yorkshire devolution proposal was rejected in a letter from James Brokenshire (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) to Dan Jarvis (MP for Barnsley Central and Mayor of Sheffield City Region) on Tuesday 12 Feb.

In the letter Mr. Brokenshire stated: “The One Yorkshire concept is novel. It focuses on an area that is far greater than any past local administrative area for Yorkshire or any of today’s functional economic city regions. It would involve significant departures from the type of devolution deals that we have successfully put in place elsewhere in terms of geography, governance and purpose. The mayoralty would cover the whole of Yorkshire – with a population of 5.5 million people and widely varying rural and urban areas with competing needs. Accordingly, the Government considers that the One Yorkshire devolution proposals do not meet our criteria for devolution.”

There are so many inaccuracies in this statement that it is quite difficult to understand what the Secretary of State is talking about but evidently, from what we have been able to establish, he does not believe that Yorkshire constitutes one economic area (whatever that is) and so we understand that this is the main reason for rejection. He is suggesting, as an alternative, very limited forms of devolution to more localised areas such as York and North Yorkshire, Leeds City Region and the Humber Estuary.

For us, this rejection is a huge lost opportunity. One Yorkshire had the potential capability to deliver an extra £30BN per annum for the Yorkshire economy. This capability will now be forfeit against the prospect of limited investment for the sub-regions, none of which can even come near the potential of One Yorkshire for scale, cohesion and identity. If we are going to have a York and North Yorkshire and a Humber Estuary region, why not a Driffield City Region. Many of these sub-regions are in each other’s “go to work” areas. On this basis, Leeds will almost certainly dominate and the rest will either be integrated or left behind.

Presumably, the Secretary of State was only talking about the current government’s policies in terms of devolution because other examples of devolution which probably don’t fit the criteria are London, Scotland and Wales. These devolved regions appear to have had some success. You can take the argument around economic areas further, but this then gets us into all sorts of problems. If you upscale, you find that the UK is not really a functioning economic area. Should we then scrap the UK because it does not fit our criteria?

The rejection of One Yorkshire may be a setback for Yorkshire devolution, but it should increase our resolve for an autonomous Yorkshire regional government and the establishment of a directly elected parliament for Yorkshire based around the concept of subsidiarity; whereby powers are granted to the least centralised authority capable of addressing those matters effectively. Given Westminster’s current performance, it does not appear to be capable of handling anything effectively at the moment.

Yorkshire has been neglected and snubbed by Westminster for far too long. We don’t want a repeat of the damage wrought by the 1970’s local government reorganisation, nor should we tolerate it.

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