The communities secretary has urged councils in Yorkshire to come forward with fresh devolution proposals after again dismissing calls for a deal covering the whole of the historic county.
In a letter to Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis (Lab) on Tuesday, Mr Brokenshire said government had considered the One Yorkshire proposals “carefully” but they did not meet the government’s criteria for a devolution deal.
LGC understands this is largely because the government views Yorkshire as a number of separate functional economic areas. In the letter Mr Brokenshire said ministers were “prepared to begin discussions about a different, localist approach” and suggested councils revive previous devolution proposals covering the Leeds City Region and the Humber Estuary.
However, in a joint statement the 18 Yorkshire councils that back the bid said they were “disappointed” by the communities secretary’s response.
The statement said: “We were told by government to come up with devolution proposals which enjoy widespread support… In response, the secretary of state is now advocating solutions that his own government has previously rejected. We are requesting an urgent meeting, face to face, to discuss the way forward.”
Mr Brokenshire and his predecessor Sajid Javid have repeatedly rejected the One Yorkshire proposal, which has the support of all councils in the historic county of Yorkshire except Sheffield City Council and Rotherham MBC.
They, along with Doncaster and Barnsley MBCs, are members of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority. Although the area’s voters elected Mr Jarvis as mayor last year, powers have not been devolved as Doncaster and Barnsley refused to back the deal in late 2017, despite having previously signed up to it.
In his letter to Mr Jarvis, Mr Brokenshire said a condition of devolution talks with other parts of Yorkshire was that the Sheffield City Region deal was fully realised.
He wrote: “In line with current government policy, we would be prepared to consider any proposals submitted on the basis Sheffield City Region deal is completed, honouring the Mayor’s commitment to local people and unlocking £900 million investment in the area.”
Last September LGC reported that many council leaders involved were disappointed in Mr Brokenshire’s refusal to consider the One Yorkshire proposal.
LGC understands meetings have since taken place with most Yorkshire leaders.
Mr Brokenshire writes: “The government has thought carefully about the arguments for One Yorkshire and discussed them in detail with local leaders.
“I recognise the ambition that underpins these proposals but they do not meet our devolution criteria.
“However, we are prepared to begin discussions about a different, localist approach to devolution in Yorkshire. We know there is local appetite for other devolution elsewhere in Yorkshire, with representations having been made previously by the Leeds City Region, York and North Yorkshire and the Humber Estuary.”
The joint statement by the Yorkshire leaders said: “We are disappointed by the secretary of state’s response which exhibits a misunderstanding of the strength of our One Yorkshire proposals which build on a shared identity and an established global brand.
“His letter also fails to recognise the considerable work of the great partnership we have developed, cross-party, to develop ambitious plans which we calculate would add £30bn to the economy and bring the benefits of devolution to a region of five million people.”