YORKSHIRE should be given more power to make its own decisions through “Scottish-style devolution”, York’s council leader has said.
Coun James Alexander and his fellow councillor Joe Riches will next week propose that City of York Council should be at the forefront of a campaign for a Yorkshire and Humber Parliament, a regional assembly or a team of local authority chiefs to take over responsibilities and money from central Government.
The idea will be discussed at a full meeting of the authority next week, but it has drawn a mixed response from other Yorkshire council leaders.
Coun Ian Gillies, leader of York council’s Conservative opposition, branded it “part of Coun Alexander’s plan for world domination”.
Coun Alexander said: “Yorkshire and the Humber has a similar population to Scotland and an economy almost double that of Wales, and it’s about time it had similar powers. Devolution has led to more powers and success in both Scotland and Wales, and Yorkshire and the Humber should have a chance at equal or better success.”
Coun Riches claimed councils could not resolve issues which cut across local authority boundaries, such as transport and economic matters, on their own.
He said: “The ties between York and its neighbours grow stronger by the day, but collaboration between authorities would be helped with regional government.”
Barnsley Council leader Stephen Houghton said the “devil was in the detail”.
But he said: “In principle, it’s certainly something to be looking at and I believe it would be a good thing.
“Yorkshire’s economy and population is as big as Scotland’s, so there’s no reason why we can’t have the same control over our future.”
North Yorkshire County Council leader John Weighell said: “We went through this a few years ago and the view of a large proportion of Yorkshire’s population was an overwhelming ‘no’.
“It’s not a good idea and to put an extra cost into the system of government would be out of order.”
Dr Chris Rogers, of the University of York’s department of politics, said regional devolution was appealing “in principle” but said it was questionable whether enough people identified politically with Yorkshire as a unit.
He said: “It is therefore necessary that advocates of this proposal can provide a clear evidence base that Yorkshire and the Humber represents a distinct economic and cultural area, of a similar status to Scotland and Wales, and can identify why the current programme of decentralisation from central Government cannot meet the needs this presents.”