Ministers reject "One Yorkshire" proposal - but it's a harbinger of future devolution in England
Looking through the Sunday morning political shows online we saw this fascinating tweet, which alerted us to a ministerial rejection we hadn’t even heard about:
(The Sunday Politics episode will be available here). As an element of our interest in local power, subsidiarity and devolution, we have been tracking the steady rise of demands for Yorkshire self-government (see here) - which are marked by their civic imagination and inclusiveness.
But “One Yorkshire”, as a plan with many stakeholders presented to the current government (and rejected as “not falling within their devolution guidelines"), was new to us. From York council’s website, here’s what they were asking for:
To see the creation of a Mayor of Yorkshire in 2020
To enable decisions currently taken by Government in London, to be made in the region
To allow Yorkshire access to funding and benefits similar to other areas with devolution agreements (like Greater Manchester and the West Midlands)
It's estimated that a One Yorkshire devolution agreement could help create 200,000 additional jobs and raise incomes by £500 per person over and above current economic forecasts.
For more information see, the 2018 document setting out the vision for a One Yorkshire devolution agreement, including the creation of a Mayor of Yorkshire, that was submitted to the Government. And also the One Yorkshire Summary and One Yorkshire Report, to find about more about the recent developments (and see the infographic, left).
The pitch is very much that economics and infrastructure justifies the creation of a Yorkshire “assembly” of some kind. Mentioned in the tweet above is Stuart Arnold, leader of the Yorkshire Party (YP) (tweeting here), who laid out their ambitions in a 2018 interview for the Yorkshire Post:
Despite the extra bureaucracy it would likely entail, he says an elected assembly is preferable to a mayor with a cabinet of council leaders as a means of providing democratic accountability.
“This devolution process is not about economic renewal, and social renewal, but also about democratic renewal, there is that opportunity. If we just go back to the old ways of doing things, a strong man or woman for Yorkshire, is this really the new politics?
“You would still have a spokesperson or leader from the assembly, as they do in Wales and Scotland, but I do think it works better.
“As you go around Yorkshire people do feel a bit left out, they see the success in Leeds, success in Sheffield and other parts, but some of these peripheral places, perhaps those on the East coast, some of the smaller towns like Bramley and Keighley, feel quite left behind.
“And the figures show that, the economy in Yorkshire hasn’t recovered from the banking crisis. We have stalled for the last ten years.
“So I am always much more favour of pushing power down to those people and giving them responsibilities to take on and try and renew and revitalise their communities.”
The YP is starting to come up with county-specific policies - like this house-building plan to address homelessness - which is exactly the kind of differentiation that devolution is supposed to allow. But Stuart’s words at the end of the interview are where we are interested in the agenda of Yorkshire for devolution (and elsewhere). Does an assembly mean that more local and marginalised areas will become much more important, and given more voice, if a powerful layer of government is closer to them?