Devolution White Paper Scrapped

We understand that the much anticipated and delayed Devolution White Paper is to be replaced by a levelling up White Paper.

The Government press release stated that the Government will publish a landmark Levelling Up White Paper later this year, articulating how bold new policy interventions will improve opportunity and boost livelihoods. The White Paper will be led by the Prime Minister. It will accompany work being undertaken to repair the damage done by Covid to public services. A new No10 – Cabinet Office Unit will be set up to drive through work on the White Paper and the Prime Minister has also appointed Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough, as his Levelling Up Adviser.

This looks like a reversion to the centrally based, top-down policy making that has failed spectacularly and consistently over the last 50 or more years. The government clearly does not like the success that limited devolution has achieved so far because it is a challenge to the power of the centre.

George Osborne said last year that Boris Johnson should “double down on devolution” and give mayors new powers as they were a “fantastic success story” and every area should have one.

According to yesterday’s FT, Andy Burnham said: “If the government is going to level up, you can’t do it from an office in Whitehall. Where they treat us with respect and fairly, we will work with the government. Any other form of devolution won’t work.”

In the same article Lord Jim O’Neill said: “They don’t like mayors who are not Tory – it’s plain and simple.”

This is the key to the problem. Devolution is viewed as a threat to the all-powerful government oligarchy and any threat seemingly cannot be tolerated. Then there is also the issue that the success of devolution is not theirs to crow about. You would think that if devolution delivers economic prosperity, then the government would bask in the reflected glory of a successful policy delivered but this is obviously not the case. Their priority appears to be to hold power for the sake of it not for the benefit of those that they are supposed to be serving.

The fact is that a focused regional government with proper powers and authority over its region and with good governance arrangements could deliver far more for its people than the centralised UK oligarchy ever could. That is why we will continue to campaign for effective devolution for Yorkshire and its people.

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