Government ministers accused of showing lack of respect over devolution rejection

Cllr Yvonne Peacock.

Conservative council leaders have spoken of their dismay over apparent disrespect shown by Tory ministers’ dismissal of their efforts to devolve power to Yorkshire.

Hambleton and Richmondshire district council leaders Councillors Mark Robson and Yvonne Peacock said the rejection of the One Yorkshire devolution plan by Communities Secretary James Brokenshire represented a huge blow after several years of work to develop the plan with 16 other local authorities.

The Conservative councillors were speaking to members of their councils hours after Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry told the Great Northern Conference in Leeds local authority leaders needed to revise plans in Yorkshire to transfer powers from Whitehall.

Cllr Peacock said she had been left dismayed by Mr Brokenshire deciding to send the rejection letter to Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis.

She told a full meeting of the Richmondshire council: “We were all very disappointed when James Brokenshire decided to send a letter via Dan Jarvis, not even directly to the leaders.

“I myself have been working on this for the past three and a half years and have spent a long time on it. I do think we were treated very badly.”

Councillor Robson told a full meeting of the Hambleton authority the Government had “killed off” something that the authority had wracked up costs and wasted considerable amounts of time developing, involving “nearly five years of going backwards and forwards”.

Explaining his decision to back out of the One Yorkshire coalition of councils, he said: “I felt there was no benefit to this authority, whether it be myself or the chief executive spending any more time going and discussing something that in my opinion we are no further forward today than we were five years ago.

“However, if the Government come back and say there are other options to explore then we are more than happy to take part.”

Cllr Peacock said a meeting on Monday had seen 17 councils reassert their ambition to press for a Yorkshire-wide devolution solution despite the Government opposition.

She said: “We are still determined to have One Yorkshire. We haven’t given up and we are meeting this week with James Brokenshire.

“We will be sending a positive message to him to say we are keen to work with them to have One Yorkshire. One Yorkshire is what we have to have. It will sell Yorkshire across the world. If anyone wants to know why I am so keen on it it’s things like having 5G across the whole of Richmondshire and more skills. You need a lot of money to be able to do these things.”