17 March, 2016
Current devolution deals may be less than ideal from the YDM perspective. They offer limited powers and even more limited funding. In addition, they fall short of our ultimate ambition of a parliament for Yorkshire. However, some potential deals may offer significant opportunities. If you study the Leeds City Region Asks, then the economic potential of a Leeds City Region deal becomes quite compelling. Study the Greater Yorkshire Statement and the regional, strategic and political advantages are laid out but here the economic case is less well developed.
The Leeds City Region proposals are centred very much on the West Yorkshire conurbation but other areas may also be invited to join, for example, York, Harrogate and Skipton. On the other hand, there is no real regional dimension to most of the proposals, for example, transport strategy beyond the conurbation does not really seem to have been considered. The fact that the airport is in the wrong place to serve as a regional hub does not appear to have been raised. There seems to be little or no thought about those areas that are left outside the region. Presumably these areas do not fit in with the city centric view of the world or some spurious view that only cities can create wealth, so there is no need to care about anywhere else. Or it may be that no consideration is given to anywhere outside the conurbation even though the conurbation depends on these areas for a host of services. This is a divisive view and shows little appreciation of political and economic realities.
The Greater Yorkshire proposals are aspirations which may be soundly based but, as they stand, they require a great deal of further development. It is not even clear who the lead sponsor is, from the documentation. The proposals do not really sell the economic case. The full potential of linking the coast with the conurbations of West, South and North Yorkshire/Teeside does not appear to have been properly explored. At least the Greater Yorkshire proposals allow for more consideration of the governance arrangements.
So what are we to make of these competing bids. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. The Greater Yorkshire proposals are more inclusive. The Leeds City Region’s are heavily focused on economics and in this area are much better developed than the Greater Yorkshire proposals.
It is pretty obvious that the Leeds City Region proposals were developed over time and the Greater Yorkshire proposals were put together when it became obvious that some sort of devolution proposals would be required for those areas outside the main cities. Some leaders within Leeds City Region seem to think that the Greater Yorkshire proposals are a threat to their own proposals. This is a strange attitude to adopt. You can see the reasoning behind it but when an opportunity presents itself, should you not take it?
The Greater Yorkshire proposals present a huge opportunity for Yorkshire to develop both economically and politically. From the Leeds City Region perspective, there is an opportunity to spread its influence and expertise throughout the “Greater Yorkshire” region and to get on board with the development of the Yorkshire brand internationally. For the whole of “Greater Yorkshire” the synergies in administration and the business opportunities of linked up development are huge. So, are we all rushing to sort out our plans and get on with business? Not exactly! Leeds City Region is threatening to derail the whole devolution process if it cannot go it alone even though there has never been any threat of compulsion to take a Greater Yorkshire deal.
Yorkshire could achieve great things if we work together so it seems a shame that these opportunities might be lost because some people cannot see the benefits in front of them. There may be timetables involved but working together, surely those responsible could come up with a solution that would benefit all the people of “Greater Yorkshire” and not just those that live in a particular conurbation.
From the YDM perspective, the Greater Yorkshire proposals offer a potential stepping stone to our goal of a Yorkshire parliament which other areas of Yorkshire could sign up to in due course. Who would have thought that when the YDM was formed in 2012, just three years later we would have politicians from mainstream parties signing up to devolution proposals for Yorkshire (albeit “lesser” Yorkshire).
As things stand, we believe that the Greater Yorkshire proposals have not been developed further and that this option is unlikely to be progressed. The political infighting over devolution has done considerable damage to Yorkshire, the reputation of Yorkshire politicians and Yorkshire business. We understand that devolution discussions are continuing but it is interesting to note that Leeds City Region is in discussions with the Treasury whilst the Greater Yorkshire proposals have been discussed between the sponsors and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The YDM remains committed to a devolution deal for the whole of Yorkshire. We believe that the whole devolution process should be much more open and that ultimately the public should be consulted on any final proposals. In the meantime we look forward to our civic leaders getting their act together!