5 December, 2016
From the Chair:
With the post referendum turbulence, the on-going crisis in the middle-east and the presidential elections in the USA dominating the news, one could be forgiven for thinking that nothing much has happened on the question of Yorkshire devolution. However, quite the opposite is the case.
For some time the media has been telling us of constant bickering over the geography of devolution between leaders of councils in North, East and West Yorkshire and that South Yorkshire is going-it-alone in the form of a Metro-Mayor for Sheffield City Region. Consequently we have been told that a Yorkshire-wide settlement would not happen. Yet, compare that to the news we hear today.
We are now hearing of more and more councillors and MPs, including Andrew Percy, the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, calling for a Yorkshire-wide devolution settlement. We are hearing that the South Yorkshire ‘deal’ is in shatters due to opposition to having to have a Metro-Mayor and due to the rightful legal challenges by Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire over the inclusion of parts of their respective counties. We are hearing that there are now calls from South Yorkshire councillors for the idea to be scrapped in favour of an All-Yorkshire settlement and we noted that The Financial Times has recently reported that West Yorkshire are on the brink of accepting a Pan-Yorkshire deal.
This paints a much different picture to that of the news we had been accustomed to hearing. Andrew Percy himself said only a couple of years ago that there was no appetite in Yorkshire for regional devolution yet he now calls for exactly that. This sends a very clear message that devolution to Yorkshire as a single entity is a very real possibility and that our campaigning with your support has contributed to achieving that. Yet there is more to do (see below) and together we shall continue to bring achieving our goals ever closer.
What we’ve been doing:
We commissioned a survey across Yorkshire to understand the current demographic position of the Yorkshire people regarding awareness of the devolution debate and the preferred model of devolution for Yorkshire. The survey reported in September and the results have been published on our website and in the press.
The main findings were that 54.8% of the respondents did not feel at all well informed about the proposals for devolution whereas only 1.9% considered themselves well informed. The rest fell in between. On the preferred model for devolution, 12.5% of the respondents favoured devolution only to city regions with elected mayors; 17.6% favoured devolution to a directly elected Yorkshire parliament with similar powers to the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly; 38.4% favoured no devolution at all; 2.9% wanted something else; and 28.5% did not know.
Clearly it is encouraging that of those favouring some form of devolution nearly 55% wanted a Yorkshire parliament but those favouring devolution were in the minority representing just 33% of the sample. This has to be of some concern to the YDM as does the general lack of awareness of the devolution debate in general. The key messages from the survey are that the public needs to be more engaged in the devolution debate, the pros and cons of devolution need to be better understood by all concerned and those advocating devolution need to better articulate its benefits and advantages.
In July we circulated a letter to a number of local politicians and others who we thought might be interested in joining us in promoting the idea of a Voice for Yorkshire. Surprisingly we received a number of responses and messages of support. We also held meetings with some of the respondents. Generally people seemed to be in favour of the Greater Yorkshire Devolution Proposal which was the proposal, then on the table, that came closest to meeting our aspirations. There was enthusiasm for devolution and for using the additional funding and powers that come with it to grow the regional economy. There were some reservations about elected mayors but the main stumbling block appeared to be how to take the proposal forward whilst at the same time satisfying everybody’s different political and personal agendas. This still appears to be the same situation today, although we have heard encouraging signs that the issues preventing the adoption of the Greater Yorkshire Devolution Proposal could be resolved early in the new year (in August it was all going to be resolved by October so we will believe it when it actually happens).
In the run-up to Yorkshire Day 2016 we contacted all local authorities administering areas wholly in Yorkshire and all town and parish councils of those parts of Yorkshire administered by non-Yorkshire local authorities to find how patriotic to Yorkshire they are. The results have now been analysed and a report compiled. See the report
‘Management of the YDM’
The YDM has been engaged in exploratory talks with another organisation about an informal partnering arrangement. This would streamline our management processes and give us about 100% more resources than we currently have available at any one time. The down side is that the YDM would have commitments under this arrangement and that some measure of independence might be lost. The proposal has yet to go before the Executive Committee.
‘Yorkshire Constitutional Convention’
This is something that is in the very early stages of planning. In view of the findings of our opinion survey, we are looking at ways of engaging the Yorkshire people in the devolution debate. The case for devolution (and/or subsidiarity) does not really appear to have been properly made, at least not as far as the public of Yorkshire are concerned. It has, therefore, been proposed that the devolution movement (as a whole) should create a “vision” of how it sees devolution operating for the benefit of the people. This “vision” would be publicised and the reaction to it gauged to determine if there is an appetite for a constitutional convention to discuss how a regional administration might come into being and how it would operate. There is a long way to go before the convention is established but the conversation has begun.
How you can help:
Your subscriptions are always greatly appreciated but you may like to help achieve the goals we share in other ways as well. Examples of how you can do so are: