The campaign for more autonomy for Yorkshire is gathering pace. But what will it mean for the county?
Political leaders from Yorkshire met on October 10th to discuss the possibility of having their local powers extended. The leaders met in order to write a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlining their plans for a united Yorkshire.
Devolution – apart from Sheffield and Rotherham
The letter was signed by the majority of local leaders apart from those from Sheffield and Rotherham. The letter said: “We welcomed your renewed commitment to the devolution agenda and were pleased to hear you wish to open up negotiations to unlock devolution in our region.”
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Yorkshire last month and expressed his interest in devolution for Leeds and West Yorkshire, leaving the door open for a One Yorkshire deal in the future.
The ‘One Yorkshire’ campaign sets out to unify Yorkshire under one local authority with a single mayor being elected for the whole region. This comes after a series of successful ‘metro mayors’ which have been established in areas including Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and North of Tyne.
It’s claimed a “One Yorkshire” deal could increase the county’s economy by £30 billion a year. This works out as an extra £5,400 per person per year, according to an independent study. https://www.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/media/2383/one-yorkshire-final-report.pdf
“Mad keen on a One Yorkshire mayor”
Mr Johnson said that he is open to the idea.
He said at a conference: “I’m mad keen on a One Yorkshire mayor in principle but they have to take responsibility.”
It has been estimated that an election for a One Yorkshire Mayor could happen as soon as 2020.
This step to unite Yorkshire comes after years of campaigning by various parties and groups to bring more power to the county.
Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry was amongst the leaders in the meeting. He said at the meeting: “I welcome the suggestions from our friends and partners in Yorkshire. We will now work with leaders across the region to progress devolution deals in Yorkshire, something the Prime Minister and I have been clear we want to see happen as quickly as possible.”
Earlier in the year, 18 out of 20 local councils backed the One Yorkshire devolution proposal which was put forward to parliament. But this was rejected.
“Yorkshire has a population of around 5.5 million”
One of the groups that have been campaigning is the Yorkshire Party (formerly Yorkshire First.) Their frontman is Chris Whitwood, who is the youngest ever political party leader.
Mr Whitwood told Leeds Hacks: ” As a region, Yorkshire has a population of around 5.5 million (larger than Scotland’s). Our combined economy is twice that of the Welsh Assembly. However, unlike Scotland, Wales and even Greater London Yorkshire has no devolved body to make decisions at a regional level.”
However, while the Yorkshire Party supports the devolution of Yorkshire, they do not support the idea of a single mayor for Yorkshire. Mr Whitwood said: ” The Yorkshire Party believes the best way to do this is an elected regional assembly (in the same way London benefits from the Greater London Assembly) as that would ensure the entire region is represented and power isn’t concentrated in the hands of a single mayor.”
There have been proposals to unify parts of Yorkshire, but Chris expressed his displeasure at the proposal for a united West Yorkshire. He said: “I’m unhappy to read reports of a potential metro mayor for West Yorkshire. This is divisive. The Yorkshire Party opposes anything that will split Yorkshire up and we call on council leaders to do the same.”
Some Yorkshire folk took to Twitter to show their support the Yorkshire Party’s message.