Tory chairman Brandon Lewis urges Yorkshire's leaders to be patient over region-wide devolution deal
A good devolution deal for Yorkshire that helps the region grow 'is worth taking that extra bit of time (over) to make sure it is done correctly', according to Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis.
Speaking during a visit to Leeds, Mr Lewis said he understood the frustrations of Yorkshire leaders who have seen other northern authorities handed powers and resources from central government.
But he defended his colleague Jake Berry, who has received widespread criticism over his perceived opposition to a One Yorkshire devolution agreement that would see the election of a single mayor for the region of 5.3 million people.
Northern Powerhouse Minister Mr Berry said this week that local authorities should concentrate on implementing the more limited transfer of power to the Sheffield City Region before a wider deal is considered.
He said the One Yorkshire plan, signed by 18 of the region’s 20 council leaders in March, “did not have the detail” expected in a bid for devolution, and that any discussions about a regional deal were based on the full implementation of the South Yorkshire agreement.
Asked whether the lack of a devolution deal for Yorkshire could prove a problem for the Conservatives in future, Mr Lewis told The Yorkshire Post that Mr Berry was “passionate about seeing that devolution and ability to see growth coming in the North and across the country.”
Mr Lewis said: “We all want to see things developing but in the long run it is right to make sure we take our time to get something that is sustainable and will deliver proper added value.
“If the team in central government are looking at making sure this is something that is going to be sustainable, with a really positive outcome that is real, not just something that is devolution for the sake of devolution, but devolution that actually delivers something, it is worth taking that extra bit of time to make sure it is done correctly.
“It is one of those situations where I do appreciate it can be frustrating for things to take a bit longer, but in the long run, that delivers a really good outcome that is worth the wait.”
This week, political leaders in Yorkshire including Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, North Yorkshire’s Carl Les and Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones issues a statement saying they were ready to “work at pace” to reach an agreement allowing a Yorkshire mayor to be elected in 2020.
All but two council leaders back the proposals, but last month Communities Secretary James Brokenshire prompted anger by suggesting talks could not start until the Sheffield City Region deal agreed in 2015 is implemented in full.
Doncaster and Barnsley pulled out of the South Yorkshire devolution deal last year, meaning Metro mayor Dan Jarvis was elected with virtually no powers or resources.
Work on the economic rationale for a One Yorkshire deal and the governance for a region-wide arrangement are being drawn up and are likely to be published next month.
Devolution deals are part of how the Government can promote economic growth but are “not the only thing”, Mr Lewis said.
The senior Conservative added: “Some of it is making sure the infrastructure is right and developing the infrastructure is there.
“We have got a massive infrastructure investment going on at the moment, possibly the biggest in 40 years, but devolution is a really good thing, it has been shown in a lot of areas to work, but it has got to be something locally driven, fully-supported locally, that actually gives added value locally as well.
“I know Jake [Berry] will be wanting to work with people in Yorkshire.”