Debate on Yorkshire devolution ongoing

Image credit: Adam Wyles 

The ongoing debate of Yorkshire devolution continues as Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central, pressured Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Jake Berry further on the government’s position with regard to the growing devolution movement, and whether the government would accept his outlined plan of greater economic and political powers by 2020.

The recent Brexit decision has compounded desire and boosted momentum for the devolution movement. Mr Jarvis added that both movements share similar symptoms of “overwhelming powerlessness and ambition to take back control” especially as South Yorkshire receives £300 less per person, contributing to the widening North-South Divide. This was widely supported by Yorkshire Labour MPs, who agreed that the wider Yorkshire plan would “create the best opportunities for each community.”

However, Jake Berry’s response that the government will consider Yorkshire devolution in due course because of more pressing matters, much to the dismay of Labour MPs, clearly demonstrated the inability of this government to resolve the institutional divide between central government and local communities. This was aptly put by Hilary Benn MP, who described the government’s position as not being deter-mined enough, as “where there is a will, there’s a way”, and you need look no further than Brexit to corroborate that statement.

Despite the SNP expressing neutrality with regard to the question of Yorkshire devolution, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard described how his party and Scotland will watch the “devolution debates with great interest” as the constitutional base of England is challenged.The debate comes after Barnsley and Doncaster, the constituencies for both Mr Jarvis and former Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband, almost unanimously voted for a ‘One Yorkshire’ plan that is backed by both MPs, opposing the government’s plan to back a Sheffield City region.

This is forcing the hand of the government as Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, which has the housing brief added to the title in the latest cabinet re-shuffle, has now proposed an initial interim Sheffield region, which will then have the opportunity to en-compass more of the county.

The growing pursuit of a York-shire-wide deal has progressed symbolically because of the overwhelming decision in Barnsley and Doncaster to seek devolution. In addition, Ryedale Council made the decision to support the creation of a “combined authority” in late December last year to incorporate as much of the county into a devolved union. However, this was not completely unanimous as Cllr. Paul Andrews contended that the council should be “careful what you wish for.”

With resistance from Westminster slowly eroding, Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for York Central, states that it is “vital” for the Yorkshire wide movement to “maintain pressure on Government to fall in line behind the local leader-ship.” This is crucial if the grass-roots movement were to eventually achieve and develop devolution, particularly if it were to achieve greater political and economic autonomy by the 2020 deadline that Dan Jarvis articulated in the West-minster Hall debate two weeks ago.

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