Historic deal may be a ‘stepping stone towards devolution for all of Yorkshire’

Historic deal may be a ‘stepping stone towards devolution for all of Yorkshire’

York council leader praises £540m deal that will involve York and North Yorkshire electing a mayor

Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

The UK’s first devolution deal for a city and rural region combined should be seen as a stepping stone towards a bigger goal of devolution for the whole of Yorkshire, a council leader has said.

On Monday the leaders of York city council and North Yorkshire county council joined the levelling up secretary, Greg Clark, to sign a “historic” deal that brings a radical shake-up of local government in the area.

It will involve electing a mayor of York and North Yorkshire in May 2024 and is worth, the government said, £540m over 30 years.

Keith Aspden, the Liberal Democratic leader of York city council, praised the deal, pointing to it being more funding per head of population than other devolution settlements.

It should also be seen as a step towards something bigger, he said, adding: “Some of us have long had aspirations for a Yorkshire mayor that would represent a population and have a scale that would have undeniable clout in Whitehall and with the government.”

Instead there is currently a South Yorkshire mayor and a West Yorkshire mayor, now to be joined by a North Yorkshire mayor. Hull and East Yorkshire could be next.

“Some people absolutely want to see those pieces as stepping stones to more accountability and representation at a Yorkshire level,” said Aspden. “Not everyone agrees but I certainly would be in favour of continuing to work with colleagues in East, West and South Yorkshire on that journey.”

One of those who does not agree is the secretary of state, who said Yorkshire was too big and diverse an area for it to work. But Clark said the deal for York and North Yorkshire was a significant one that would increase prosperity and opportunity for the area.

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Civil servants in London could not know what was best for an area that was “utterly unique”, he said. “The richness and diversity within [the area] eludes any attempt to understand it by people sitting in an office in London. You need Yorkshire folk to drive and make decisions about things that go on.”

The deal was signed at the National Railway Museum in York on Yorkshire Day. The perfect day, said some. Others pointed to the irony of Yorkshire Day being created as a protest against local government reorganisation in 1974.

Carl Les, the Conservative leader of North Yorkshire county council, said it was a good deal that should be seen as just the start of better things – “it’s getting your foot on the ladder.”

Les was more circumspect on the idea of full Yorkshire devolution, saying: “I can understand the government’s concern about creating an entity with devolved powers that is actually the size of the Scottish economy and the size of the Scottish population.”