Raising the Yorkshire profile
4 July, 2016
The last few months have been quite an interesting time for devolution. In Yorkshire we have had three significant devolution deals signed off, Tees Valley, Greater Manchester (yes a considerable area of eastern Greater Manchester is in Yorkshire) and Sheffield City Region. The devolution deals involved give their respective regions freedom to spend funds allocated to various areas of devolved responsibility as they see fit without the need for Whitehall’s authority and presumably without onerous central government supervision. There is no doubt that, in terms of devolution, this could be called progress of sorts as the government considers that local people, or rather some elements of the local authorities involved, know best when it comes to how to use these funds for the greatest benefit of the local communities concerned.
The question of the need for mayors to be held accountable for this spending is something that I do not wish to dwell on here. Someone has to be held accountable and, given the complexity of combined authority/local enterprise partnership organizations, the mayor provides a figurehead who can, at least, be easily identified.
The YDM has previously made clear that, whilst we support devolution and whilst we see the proposed arrangements as a step in the right direction, we feel that these arrangements do not take full advantage of the impetus towards devolution. There are several reasons for this but the main areas are that there has been no public consultation on the arrangements, the public has hardly been engaged at all; the finance provided will hardly make up for the losses to local authority funding due to austerity measures; and, with possibly the exception of Greater Manchester, the authorities involved are far too small to be able to plan and undertake regional projects.
The obvious choice for us is devolution of powers to the Yorkshire region but, with perhaps the exception of the Greater Yorkshire Devolution Proposal, devolution to the Yorkshire region does not appear to have found enough support to make the case compelling. This seems strange as Yorkshire is a well established county and region which has sufficient critical mass and cohesion to operate as a self- governing entity. On the other hand, a problem for Yorkshire is that it does not currently have a central administration nor does it have regional institutions in place, unlike Scotland, Wales and London, which would allow it to function as a regional entity. There are those within the political and business fraternities that are trying to raise the profile of Yorkshire but we believe that they need additional support and impetus to make our case. Sometimes it seems that “Welcome to Yorkshire” is doing more than its fair share to promote and support the region and the scale of their recent achievements is considerable. Look at what the Tour de France and the Tour de Yorkshire have done for the county. If more of us get together to support and promote our county, I am sure that as well as raising the positive profile of our region we could also make a compelling case for Yorkshire wide devolution and thus take advantage of all the benefits that such an arrangement could bring.
Over the coming weeks the YDM will be launching a number of initiatives to raise the positive profile of Yorkshire. These will be publicized on this site and in social media. If you can help us with any of these, your support would be much appreciated.
04 July 2016