THE Archbishop of York has been asked to help to steer talks on Yorkshire devolution, amid a deadlock within the region over the way forward.
The Sheffield City Region deal, approved by the Government in 2015, stalled last month after the leaders of the two of the councils involved — Barnsley and Doncaster — voted against it, saying that they wanted to pursue a Yorkshire-wide deal instead.
In a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday of last week, the Labour MP for Keighley, John Grogan, said that 17 of the 20 local authorities in Yorkshire had signed the One Yorkshire proposal, first outlined in August, which envisages “a single ambitious devolution deal for the Yorkshire authorities and areas wanting to work together on this basis”.
Mr Grogan announced during the debate that he had written to Dr Sentamu, “asking him to consider calling a meeting of all those involved in the devolution process to try to make some progress”. He said that the Archbishop’s office had told him that “he is supportive of the process of Yorkshire devolution, and he will closely examine the proposals of the 17 councils involved and will be in contact with the Bishops of Leeds and Sheffield about the most appropriate course of action to take”.
Dr Sentamu tweeted last Friday: “It is time to consult with leaders of councils & civic groups. We must work together.”
The Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Jake Berry, told MPs that the Sheffield deal, worth £900 million, was “the start of devolution, not the end of it”, and insisted that the mayoral election for the region would go ahead in May. “All I can say is that the people who are trying to undermine this deal know exactly who they are, and it is shame on them, shame on them, shame on them.”
The Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said that he will meet leaders to discuss a Greater Yorkshire deal, but that it cannot include any of the South Yorkshire boroughs.
Writing in The Yorkshire Post last month, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said that there were “many cogent arguments for devolution”, and noted that the north “needs a means of representing its interests at the Brexit negotiating table”.
Earlier this month, he asked in the House of Lords what assessment the Government had made of the One Yorkshire proposal. In a written reply published on Monday, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, a minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, said that the Government had “no intention to undo the legislation on the Sheffield City Region deal” but that it would “welcome any widely supported proposal for a Yorkshire devolution deal involving a single mayoral combined authority and on an appropriate geography that did not include the Sheffield City Region”.