The housing and communities secretary is open to the idea of a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal, with a mayor, taking effect in 2020 - two years earlier than Sajid Javid had previously planned - according to representatives who met with him yesterday.
According to accounts, Mr Javid “wouldn’t stand in the way” of a Yorkshire-wide deal, including councils involved in the Sheffield City Region deal, provided it had widespread support. He now wants leaders to put together a proposal with a view to starting negotiations.
Barnsley MBC leader Sir Stephen Houghton (Lab) said “Mr Javid said it would be up to South Yorkshire if they wanted to adjust their next election to 2020” and added: “Mr Javid said he wanted a South Yorkshire deal for those who want to still proceed and he would not block either Barnsley or Doncaster from moving to a wider deal.”
LGC previously reported how Barnsley and Doncaster would prefer to leave the Sheffield City Region CA in favour of a Yorkshire-wide deal but were previously told they would not be able to do so until 2022.
However, representatives from 18 of 20 councils in Yorkshire met with Mr Javid in Westminster yesterday. Only Sheffield City Council and Rotherham MBC, whose leader Chris Read (Lab) had last month softened his stance on a Yorkshire-wide proposal, were not present.
Ahead of the meeting the 18 council leaders wrote to the prime minister on Monday, stating their position on the two new mayoralties. The leaders called in the letter for the new Sheffield City Region mayor, who is due to be elected in May, to only receive a two-year term. This period would bring it in line with a potential ‘One Yorkshire’ mayoral election in May 2020.
In a statement from the Yorkshire leaders present at the meeting they said: “Leaders welcomed Mr Javid making clear that the government wouldn’t stand in the way of any One Yorkshire proposal taking effect in 2020 that had widespread support. This would include the ability of South Yorkshire authorities to join a One Yorkshire deal if they wanted to from day one.
“The secretary of state requested as a next step that he would want to see concrete proposals and leaders made clear that given the level of agreement across Yorkshire that these could be submitted to the government rapidly.”
Leaders are due to meet on 12 March to discuss the proposals in detail.
The leader of Craven DC Richard Foster (Con) told LGC: “Mr Javid asked the leaders to write up a devolution deal, take it to their authorities and submit it [to the government] if they’re happy with it.”
One local Conservative MP Robert Goodwill told LGC that leaders had been motivated to act quickly on a devolution deal through a widespread recognition of the benefits that other devolved areas had received.
Mr Goodwill, who is MP for Scarborough & Whitby, said: “We’ve seen far too much shilly-shallying on this issue. We [Yorkshire politicians] need to work together now because we don’t want Yorkshire to be left behind other regions that have agreed their own deals.”
Mr Goodwill said recent disagreement over a potential devolution deal had centred on political disagreements, particularly over the upcoming local elections in May.
“There have been issues over who will stand as candidates in a mayoral election. There are some big personalities in Yorkshire’s local government and there’s no doubt that some of them fancy the top job,” Mr Goodwill said, referring to a future mayor for Yorkshire.
However, he said an agreement felt closer now than it had been for a long time.
“South Yorkshire wants to go ahead and if the other authorities feel able to join in, we’re going to move towards something everyone can go along with,” he said.
A Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government spokesperson said: “We have always said that we would welcome discussions on any widely-supported proposal for a greater Yorkshire devolution deal provided the Sheffield City Region deal was not threatened and the proposal clearly relates to a sensible geographic area.
“The election for the South Yorkshire mayor has received legislative approval by Parliament and will take place in May 2018 for a four year term.”