Recognition, Leadership and the Yorkshire Devolution Campaign

Some of us will be getting together in York on 1st August to discuss recognition, leadership and the Yorkshire devolution campaign. We will be looking at the most effective ways to take the campaign forward.


Yorkshire only actually exists as the historic county, the three ridings and the city of York. Modern day administrative areas may be derived from this, but they are modern day administrative areas, in many cases parts of Yorkshire but not the whole. Yorkshire has not been a single political entity for a very long time.


Possibly as a result of Yorkshire not being a single political entity, there is no Yorkshire leadership covering the whole region.

There is the Yorkshire Leaders Board which is a grouping of local authority leaders representing councils across the old Yorkshire and Humberside region. Its role is to identify and tackle the strategic issues facing councils across the Yorkshire and Humber region and to look for opportunities to work better across geographical boundaries on a cross-party, pan public sector basis. It is a generally well-respected group which claims to be the voice of the region, though its work is not well publicised. Individually the members have a mandate to run their respective councils by being duly elected but they do not have a similar mandate over the region.

The One Yorkshire Committee is a cross-party, cross-sector, cross-regional committee seeking greater powers for Yorkshire. The Committee comprises council, business, trades union, academic and political leaders with the goal of supporting the Yorkshire Leaders Board in their work on devolution. I think a key point to note here is that the One Yorkshire Committee supports the devolution campaign, it makes no claim to lead it. An interesting point to note about both the One Yorkshire Committee and the Yorkshire Leaders Board is that they are co-chaired by members of national UK political parties whose leaderships do not support One Yorkshire devolution.

No leader of the various campaigning organisations claims to lead the campaign as a whole and, whilst there is evidence that some organisations are making progress, no one person can claim to be sufficiently well known to be a recognised figure or leader.

The Campaign

The Yorkshire devolution campaign is diverse and is supported by several political parties, including the Yorkshire Party, the LibDems and the Greens. Only the LibDems have an elected MP in the region and much of his constituency is outside Yorkshire. The campaign also has numerous supporters in those political parties and groupings that do not actually support Yorkshire devolution.

The rest of the movement is just as diverse and includes such organisations as the Yorkshire Devolution Movement and the Democratic Yorkshire Alliance.

A good question to ask may be “is there a campaign for One Yorkshire devolution?” The best answer might be yes and no. There does not appear to be a formal campaign with a “plan of campaign”, an organisation and a leadership structure. There are several groups mounting various uncoordinated actions. Each group has its own leadership and generally works in isolation. All groups agree that One Yorkshire devolution has very real benefits. Whilst there are good relations between the various groups, there is little real coordination and communication could be improved. The political parties involved are, to a large extent, rivals with no, or limited, real scope for collaboration.

The campaign does receive some local media coverage especially when there are local and national elections, but its media presence is scant and the campaign is generally regarded as a fringe activity of little significance. Social media presence is negligible. The performance of the Yorkshire Party in the mayoral elections in West and South Yorkshire goes against this trend, however, and shows that the potential to develop the campaign is there even with minimal resources and a lack of significant media presence.

Whilst the work of the Yorkshire Leaders Board and that of the One Yorkshire Committee contributes to the campaign, the main thrust of the Leaders Board, in particular, is to achieve goals that benefit the region. There have been some notable successes in this area. This is devolution in action that provides direct benefits that should be recognised. They are significant to the campaign in that this is an illustration of what can be achieved with negligible powers; think what could be achieved with real devolution. Not enough publicity is given to these aspects of the work.

The campaign appears to be largely funded by individual donations. We understand that the work of the Yorkshire Leaders Board may be partially or wholly funded from official sources.


Yorkshire does not exist as a political entity which means that there is nothing to devolve powers to or to take control, depending on your view of the vision for Yorkshire autonomy/devolution. There is no effective leadership for the region and there is certainly no effective leadership for the devolution campaign. The campaign itself is unplanned, fragmented and, whilst there is a vision, this varies depending on who you talk to.

The performance of the Yorkshire Party at the mayoral elections indicates that the campaign could become mainstream and could generate sufficient interest to be successful, given the right resources and the right conditions. There is still a great deal of work to do to make the campaign a success, but the opportunities are there. They just need to be properly exploited.

2 thoughts on “Recognition, Leadership and the Yorkshire Devolution Campaign

  1. Thank you for organising this, Richard.
    The Democratic Yorkshire Alliance fully support this initiative by Transforming Yorkshire and l look forward to getting together with colleagues on Yorkshire Day in York.
    As you know, the Alliance already works with a number of the groups and individuals you mention. We welcome input from anyone with an interest in our objective of a People’s Constitution. Thanks to your endeavours, regular updates and points of discussion are posted on Transforming Yorkshire.
    I feel that the Alliance is at a bit of a disadvantage by the timing of this event and limited in what we can contribute to the establishment of a joint campaign. Our work on completing the first draft of a People’s Constitution will not be finished until October ready to launch in January.
    From Democratic Yorkshire’s point of view however, your event offers another opportunity to engage with your attendees on the content of the People’s Constitution and receive their input.
    Yours Fraternally

  2. It is now nearly five years since the economic case for One Yorkshire devolution was made. The case for One Yorkshire Devolution was rejected and we got metro mayors instead. This left Westminster still largely in control of local affairs and certainly controlling the purse strings. Whilst the mayors have made some progress, in that time train services got so bad that First TransPennine lost their franchise, Doncaster Sheffield Airport closed and public transport has generally become so bad that the roads are even more clogged up than ever. Getting around Yorkshire is difficult and this is affecting productivity.

    In order to be on a par with the UK average, Yorkshire GDP would have to be in the region of £205BN rather than around £142BN which is where it stand today. That’s around a £60BN shortfall and, when compared to similar areas in Western Europe, this becomes around £100BN or more.

    Yes, GDP is not an ideal measure; certainly not in terms of lifestyle, but it matters because it means that we cannot afford all the services we need. We rely on others to provide the cash for these but the cash cow that is London is no longer doing as well as it did so this situation may not be sustainable in the longer term.

    The One Yorkshire Economic Case was, in my opinion, conservative and not particularly ambitious, but even this indicated that One Yorkshire could achieve benefits of £30BN per annum over time. Almost five years have passed so that equates to £150BN of unrealisable benefits.

    Westminster’s landmark achievement is that they have made Yorkshire poorer and things are not getting any better. This is not acceptable, it is not sustainable and it cannot go on. Something must be done and done now!

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