Moving Towards An Independent Yorkshire?
Following the election of ‘metro-mayors’ earlier this year for the regions of Greater Manchester, Liverpool City, Tees Valley and further afield in the West Midlands, West of England and Cambridgeshire, a majority of council leaders in the Yorkshire area are pushing for a similar position in God’s Own County.
17 out of 20 council leaders are supporting a plan which consists primarily of an elected mayor for the region, a cabinet consisting of council leaders, and an annual budget of £100 million. The mayor and cabinet would have oversight over transport, education and business rates in the county.
The case for more power, and potentially independence further down the line, rests on the fact that the population of Yorkshire is roughly the same as that of Scotland and that the Yorkshire economy is worth more than the economies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.
The initial plan outlined above and the notion of independence for Yorkshire was discussed on Tuesday in Parliament after a proposal was made by John Grogan MP, who represents the Keighley constituency.
However, a small-scale plan pushed by local councils in South Yorkshire for a Sheffield City Region – which has now collapsed due to the withdrawal of support from Barnsley and Doncaster – has been taken up by the government as a plausible alternative. This plan has very limited support and a previous plan for a Leeds City Region was dismissed earlier in the year by Conservative MPs.
Following the failing Sheffield City Region deal and the failed Leeds City Region deal, proponents of devolution for Yorkshire are calling for a ‘One Yorkshire’ plan, which would ideally consist of the powers outlined above by John Grogan.
Mr Grogan emphasised the weakness of the Sheffield City Region deal, asking: “are they seriously going to impose an expensive mayoral election on the people of South Yorkshire when two of the four authorities are opposed to this? Are they seriously going to do that for a mayor who will have no powers and no money?”
The Northern Powerhouse minister, Jake Berry, replied that: “the people of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield deserve the devolution they’ve been promised”.
Although this week’s debate on devolution to Yorkshire excited many, it is unclear as to what extent the Westminster government is committed to delivering a devolution deal which will go as far many people would like.