Calderdale councillors slam progress on One Yorkshire devolution deal

Calderdale councillors James Baker, top right, and Dot Foster
Calderdale councillors James Baker, top right, and Dot Foster

Calderdale councillors have slammed the lack of progress on a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal.

It comes after Yorkshire’s political leaders hit back at the Government in the ongoing row over a region-wide devolution deal earlier this week.

In a letter signed by 18 of the region’s 20 council leaders on Wednesday, there were calls for the government to offer “a constructive approach and rapid progress in the coming weeks and months”.

New Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire had claimed he was currently “not prepared” to discuss a One Yorkshire deal.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s (WYCA) scrutiny committee, which looks into transport and infrastructure issues, met today to discuss the deal – or lack of.

A WYCA officer told the meeting: “Nothing has changed – it reflects a little bit of frustration that the proposed deal was submitted in March.”

But members of the committee were in no mood for consolation.

A letter from Mr Brokenshire said the Government would only enter into discussions about a wider devolution deal once the more limited Sheffield City Region deal, first agreed in 2015, was implemented in full.

This came as a surprise to Yorkshire leaders, who had submitted detailed proposals for a One Yorkshire deal in the spring, but had not had a formal response from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Calderdale councillor James Baker (Lib Dem) said: “I would love to have a regional assembly for Yorkshire, but it’s not on the cards at the moment and you have to get what you can.

“But where is the government leadership on this? People are going to lose out. It’s a massive political failing for the region and it’s sad.

“A One Yorkshire deal isn’t going to happen for years.”

Kirklees councillor and chair of the committee Robert Light (Con) said: “I am as frustrated as anyone – It’s beyond frustration now.

“I see what is happening in Birmingham – three years ago they were streets behind us, now they are streets ahead of us.

“I think it’s imperative that we get devolution, a mayor in place and the structure to take it forward.

“Every time we get a new proposal, someone rejects it, and it’s becoming a real problem now.

“Council leaders in Yorkshire are letting people down at the moment.

“We must have a deal in place for 2020.”

Calderdale councillor Dot Foster (Lab) called for a return to a possible West Yorkshire deal: “We have got the Leeds City Region. That is, in effect, what we want.

“Can we not build on that and get a West Yorkshire deal?”

But Kirklees councillor Paul Kane (Lab) thinks West Yorkshire leaders could be fighting a losing battle

He said: “We are supposed to be non-political but we are in a political situation.

“This is all about securing seats. We have one colour saying we want it and another saying you cant have it.

“I hate debating things we have no control over. We’re not in power. If they’re not going to give us it, they’re not going to give us it.

“It’s impossible.”

The joint statement issued by the leaders on Wednesday was on behalf of all Yorkshire’s councils other than Sheffield and Rotherham, and vowed to “deliver what the people of Yorkshire want, what the region deserves and what could benefit the whole of the UK”.

But ministers say they will not even discuss ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution despite town halls overwhelmingly backing it.