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Yorkshire Conversation : The Catalan Effect

30 September, 2015

Will the results of Catalonia's regional elections prompt a reappraisal of the need for a Yorkshire Conversation? Of course not!! But maybe they should. There has been no real public consultation on the new local government proposals and it looks as though metro mayors will be adopted by those areas that accept the pitiful levels of devolution on offer despite the fact that voters in Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield and Sheffield rejected the idea in the referendums of 2012. We are led to believe that the introduction of mayors this time around will involve them being given greater powers than were previously considered so there is no need for a referendum but surely the reverse is true. In any case any referendum should be about the whole concept of the type of executive local government that is being proposed rather than being restricted to the issue of mayors.

The government seems to think that it has a mandate to mess around with our local government systems as it sees fit but there is a lot more than just economic issues at stake here. Indeed, if it has such a mandate then surely this also extends to the European Question and would have covered Scottish independence so why bother with referendums on these issues? The answer is obvious, the government's mandate is limited and they would be foolish to ignore the wishes of the people.

The Conservative government needs to be aware of the ramifications of its tinkering with the local government structure. It needs to be aware that any changes which might have adverse impacts on the region could also have adverse impacts on support for the party in the future. With a slender majority of just 12 seats in Parliament and only 36.9% of the vote in the last general election, the Conservative Party would be wise to look after its own interests and those of its supporters.

The YDM believes that a Yorkshire Conversation (the detail of this exercise would need to be worked out but there would need to be an opportunity to express preferences for the outcome) would give any changes to the local/regional government structure democratic legitimacy and that such a consultation exercise would be in the interests of all concerned. An election may be five years away but the European referendum could provide a platform for all sorts of diverse issues. The mayoral elections could also provide surprises. The political headwinds are out there and should not be ignored.


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