With the Chancellor making the long trip north and Yorkshire’s devolution going if not south at least in circles, it feels everything’s everything is in motion this week. Ross Cathcart gives a sense of what it all means.
Philip Hammond’s bursting the Westminster bubble?
With rail investment and infrastructure high on the political agenda, Philip Hammond saw this week as the perfect opportunity to test those Northern trains for himself, travelling to meet the three Northern mayors in Manchester. The Chancellor said that the session with Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram and Ben Houchen would ‘set the record straight’ after a summer of discontent following fears that plans to electrify key Northern lines would be dropped. To some extent, the reaction to the meeting fell down party lines with Rotheram concerned that while willing to listen, Hammond failed to promise any additional funding and Houchen celebrating the progress made in the meeting. Expect the murmurs of discontent to get louder as conference season approaches and the Conservatives return to Manchester. Not least if Hammond’s predecessor in No. 11 has anything to do about it; George Osborne has been scathing of the government’s approach and called for commitments to East-West rail improvements to be high on the agenda in October.
Yorkshire’s devolution saga rolls on
Whilst there is no shortage of news coming from Yorkshire, it still feels we’re not so much moving towards a devolution deal for the region as moving sideways. South Yorkshire FSB started the week by expressing “its despair” at the state of Yorkshire devolution. Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford City Council and the new chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, urged the Government to grant Yorkshire devolution by 2018. Philip Hammond’s comments on Tuesday indicated that the Government may support this, considering a Yorkshire-wide deal but with a focus on the urban hubs of Leeds and Sheffield. By Wednesday, Jake Berry had moved on from last week’s rejection of a Yorkshire-wide deal and announced that “further devolution in Yorkshire should follow on from the SCR deal and we’ll continue to work with local leaders, the business community and local residents to make this happen.” With 17 of Yorkshire’s 20 councils joining a ‘coalition of the willing’, Sheffield CC and Rotheram MBC committed to a South Yorkshire deal and Wakefield Council pursuing one based around Leeds, there still remains some way to go on this journey.