A Yorkshire council leader has urged his colleagues to give up on a devolution deal for the whole of the historic county in favour of a deal for the Leeds City Region.
The leader of Wakefield MDC Peter Box claims that following a meeting with communities secretary James Brokenshire, he is certain the government would “quickly agree” to a deal on that footprint and won’t support a One Yorkshire devolution deal.
Last Friday, Mr Brokenshire met with the council leaders involved in the One Yorkshire devolution bid and Cllr Box claims that although the communities secretary was “unfailingly polite”, he repeated the government’s position that the proposals did not meet its devolution criteria.
“The Secretary of State made it absolutely clear that the government will not support a One Yorkshire devolution deal,” Cllr Box explained.
“He repeated that point several times during the meeting, setting out the criteria the government had used in coming to that decision - that Yorkshire is not a functional economic area, that it’s too big - the maximum population size of a devolved region they have so far allowed is 2.8m - and that it is not one single transport authority.
“Whilst he did agree to a future meeting, my understanding is that this meeting would be to consider alternatives to the One Yorkshire proposal.”
Cllr Box claims that the government would quickly agree to either a Leeds City Region or a West Yorkshire devolution deal, and is now calling for the backers of One Yorkshire to begin to consider alternative proposals.
He told LGC: “I started out wanting a Leeds City region deal, that was my original position, but then I supported the majority of my colleagues who wanted a One Yorkshire deal.
“Rather than continuing to bang our heads against a brick wall, I think we should recognise that this is not going to happen - I don’t think that I’m being overly radical. A Leeds City deal is the most obvious alternative, and I believe it can happen quickly.
“Wakefield is not in a position to pass up the potential funding available and we hope other colleagues will join us in considering what these proposals might look like.”
The One Yorkshire proposal originally had the support of all councils in the historic county of Yorkshire except Sheffield City Council and Rotherham MBC. Last month Hambleton DC also pulled out.
Cllr Box has pulled out of the One Yorkshire Devolution conference which is being held in Leeds on Friday, where he had been booked in as a speaker.
His stance contradicts that of the other Yorkshire leaders present at the meeting with Mr Brokenshire, who appear to remain more upbeat about the prospects for One Yorkshire devolution. One leader present, Carl Les (con) the leader of North Yorkshire CC, told The Yorkshire Post that the meeting was “positive” and “constructive”.
Others in attendance were Sheffield City Region metro mayor Dan Jarvis, and Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake.
In a statement released following the meeting, the leaders said: “We were clear that we remain committed to the One Yorkshire approach to devolution, which an independent study has shown could add £30bn a year to the region’s economy, while recognising that further work is required to make progress, including on interim arrangements.
“It was agreed that officers from One Yorkshire authorities will begin work immediately with colleagues from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and Treasury on the points raised in our One Yorkshire submission last year.”
The ministry has been contacted for comment.