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Jake Berry gives support for West Yorkshire devolution deal as council leaders urge government to ‘work with, not against us’

Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry has said the government is ready to back a devolution deal for West Yorkshire and proposed a “rural” deal for York in the wake of One Yorkshire’s rejection.

Speaking at the One Yorkshire devolution conference, Berry said the government has a clear approach to devolution in the Leeds City Region, and was ready to make “rapid progress” there in order to “unlock all devolution in Yorkshire.”

The minister described devolution as the “golden thread” needed to bypass the “resentment” exposed by Brexit, stating that there was “no longer the need to pass London and collect your £200.”

But Judith Blake, the leader of the Leeds City Council, said the government had previously said Yorkshire was a priority for devolution, which was why council leaders had collectively worked on a One Yorkshire deal.

She said “There is a huge sense that, at the moment, our ambition is being held back, and we are being thwarted in being able to achieve things we want to do.”

Leaders of 18 of the 20 councils in Yorkshire as well as Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis submitted the One Yorkshire proposals last year, but the government rejected the “novel” plans last month.

James Brokenshire said the plans “do not meet our devolution criteria,” but he did say he was open to discussions regarding a different approach to devolution in Yorkshire.

The leader of Wakefield Council Peter Box has since withdrawn his support for the rejected proposals and urged other authority leaders to join him in considering alternatives.

The government has openly stated its support for a Sheffield City Region devolution deal worth £900m, and Jake Berry has now said the government believes there is huge potential in Leeds, which currently sits as an “anomaly” as the largest city in England without a devolution deal.

The Northern Powerhouse minister called it an “opportunity to do something new and truly ground-breaking,” adding that “some devolution may be a way of unlocking all devolution in Yorkshire.”

“Talking about Yorkshire devolution in a holistic way enables us now to unlock I hope in a rapid way devolution to the city of Leeds.

“I do think there is a rural deal around York,” Berry added.

Judith Blake said that her authority did back a Leeds City Region deal after George Osborne became chancellor but this was not backed by government, and was told instead that Yorkshire was the priority for devolution.

“We want to work with government, not against it. We must not end up in a position where we go over old ground again. I would ask government very seriously to make sure they are working with us and not against us.”

Image credit - Owen Humphreys PA Archive


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