Column: Devolution offers us an opportunity

Council Leader Stephen Parnaby.
Council Leader Stephen Parnaby.

David Cameron may have been joking when he referred to Yorkshire folk not getting on with each other but the mish-mash of different devolution bids coming from our county doesn’t do much to counter that view.

I strongly believe that devolution offers Yorkshire an unprecedented opportunity to take more control of its own destiny as a huge economic power base.

We at County Hall hope that our neighbours will back the arguments for the Greater Yorkshire bid.

We at County Hall hope that our neighbours will back the arguments for the Greater Yorkshire bid.

However that potential is much diluted by the current situation in which a number of separate bids have been put forward to the Government.

While each of these bids for the devolution of powers from central to local government is strong in its own right, a unified, collective bid for a Greater Yorkshire would be so much stronger.

Currently, Sheffield has gone its own way and has signed a devolution deal with the Chancellor. It looks like that horse has bolted.

West Yorkshire has put forward its own Leeds City Region devolution request and we in the East Riding have joined with the city, county and district authorities in York and North Yorkshire to submit our own expression of interest.

However, those submissions are similar in the range of devolved powers and responsibilities they are seeking to be able to deliver growth and deal with the big issues that are still causing Yorkshire to lag behind other parts of the country. There are some important differences but I believe these are not insurmountable.

Our preferred choice would have been for a Greater Yorkshire devolution package – better together to borrow a phrase – and I’m not giving up on that goal. To that end, and with the support of some council leaders, MPs and MEPs, East Riding of Yorkshire Council has developed a devolution proposition for a Greater Yorkshire Combined Authority and is encouraging others to support it.

We hope our local authority neighbours, MPs in those areas, MEPs covering Yorkshire, the three local enterprise partnerships and other partners and businesses will back the overall thrust of the arguments for a Greater Yorkshire bid.

We Yorkshire folk are rightfully proud of our county and everything which makes it the best place in the world to live, work and visit. It’s like a small country in itself and a Yorkshire Powerhouse would compete on the national and international stage.

By combining our strengths, we could have an even more vibrant economy and a greater voice at Westminster which would benefit our residents and businesses.

Devolution is a huge opportunity and I hope it will propel Yorkshire into a future of more independence to run its own affairs rather than isolating areas and leaving us a county divided.

I have written to colleagues across North, West and East Yorkshire, asking for support, and hope that together we will be submitting a Greater Yorkshire devolution proposal to the Government later this month.