Yorkshire and Calderdale demands presented to May as she defends DUP deal

Prime Minister Theresa May.  Picture Tony Johnson.
Prime Minister Theresa May. Picture Tony Johnson.

THERESA MAY has been urged not to forget the needs of Yorkshire and Calderdale as she defended her £1bn deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to shore up her government.

West Yorkshire council leaders which include Calderdale’s Councillor Tim Swift have written to the Prime Minister calling for progress on major transport schemes and devolution for the region.

The Letter demands progress on the delayed electrification of the trans-Pennine rail line connecting Leeds and Manchester and a timetable for the proposed upgrade of the Calder Valley line.

It also includes awarning that important support for local businesses could end in the next two years unless more funding is made available.

Mrs May’s decision to make £1bn available to Northern Ireland in return for DUP support in the Commons triggered calls for similar treatment for other parts of the UK.

In their letter, sent while negotiations between the Conservatives and DUP were still ongoing, West Yorkshire’s council leaders say they are “concerned about the risk that Government’s focus will be on other parts of the United Kingdom and Brexit negotiations”.

The letter continues: “This would have the effect of further stalling progress in giving Yorkshire the tools it needs to prosper which will have direct economic effects, compounding the delays already caused by the General Election and complex local discussions.”

A ‘city deal’ struck with the Government three years ago paved the way for a range of programmes to help business including creating apprenticeships and improving skills.

The letter warns that those programmes will have to end by 2019 unless the Government provides the necessary funding.

Doubts continue to hang over the Sheffield City Region devolution deal while no agreement has been reached covering the rest of Yorkshire while other parts of the country have already elected new metro-mayors to wield powers previously held by the Government.

The council leaders ask Mrs May to commit to “do all that Government can to successfully conclude in 2017 discussions for devolution”.

The letter says: “We hope you will respond positively to this request so Yorkshire starts to be treated the same as the rest of the United Kingdom.”

In addition to the £1bn for health and infrastructure in Northern Ireland there will also be more flexibility over how £500m of previously allocated cash can be spent.

Commitments to drop Conservative manifesto plans to means test the winter fuel allowance and scrap the pensions triple lock will also have costs for the Treasury to bear.

Mrs May insisted all parts of the UK were benefiting from the Government’s approach to investment in the economy.

She said: “The Government recognises the importance of investing in all parts of the country.

“That’s what I want to ensure - a country that works for everyone and ensuring that we are seeing growth and prosperity spread across the whole country.”

The agreement with the DUP ensures its 10 MPs will vote with the Government on crucial measures including the Queen’s Speech and the Budget.

Labour claimed if the normal Government spending formula was applied to the deal it would mean an extra £68bn for the rest of the UK.

The Government has insisted the Barnett formula does not apply to this spending and that similar exemptions have previously been applied to deals with English regions.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: “We need to see an end to austerity throughout the UK, not just in Northern Ireland, and not just to prop up Theresa May and her failed Government.

“Labour’s fully costed alternative programme of government stands ready to provide Britain with the leadership that will truly end austerity, and unite all nations and regions in our country.”

The Liberal Democrats produced figures suggesting £1bn would pay for an extra teacher in every school in the UK.

Lib Dem health spokeswoman Layla Moran said: “When it comes to the Tories clinging to power, it seems the magic money tree does exist after all.”