Five years ago, on September 11th 2015, the then Prime Minister David Cameron was asked about devolution and said off-mic, “We just thought people in Yorkshire hated everyone else, we didn’t realise they hated each other so much”
Last week a new initiative under the banner ‘Together Yorkshire’ was launched aimed at getting all the county’s organisations batting for the same team. The first of three September sessions of an online zoom seminar began by examining the question: ‘Collaboration- what should be done on a Yorkshire Level?‘
Yorkshire has a population of 5.3 million – larger than that of Scotland – and accounts for over 10% of the output of the United Kingdom. With a manufacturing sector that still employs 1 in 10 of the population, it exports more goods than any region outside London. Renowned for its food and drink, national parks, coastline, heritage and stunning portrayal on film and TV screens, the county has in recent years witnessed a rapid growth in tourism. Yorkshire’s 12 universities contribute £2.9 billion each year to the region’s economy and play a critical role in generating jobs and innovation Nevertheless, in terms of research and development spending, transport infrastructure, health outcomes, skills and productivity growth Yorkshire has ground to make up.
So it was in 2018 the leaders of Yorkshire’s 22 councils started meeting together and formed the Yorkshire Leaders Board. They were joined by South Yorkshire’s first elected Mayor, Dan Jarvis MP.
The Board’s three objectives were to:
1. Identify and maximise opportunities for collaborative working, particularly where the benefit in the Yorkshire brand could be further capitalised on
2. Provide political leadership across the region
3. Build relationships with local MPs and Government
The original plan was to ask the Government to devolve powers with an elected Mayor for the whole Yorkshire county. After the result of the 2019 General Election it became clear that this was not going to happen in this Parliament, with 4 sub-regional agreements appearing possible.
What will happen in future Parliaments remains unknown but for now the task is to make devolution work and explore what extra benefits collaboration across the county can bring.
The Together Yorkshire seminar series will examine how the Yorkshire Leaders Board can, in association with other partners (whilst embracing the sub-regional devolution agreements) best pursue their ambitions for Yorkshire in 3 key policy areas:
• Post Covid and Post Brexit Economic Development.
• Towards Net Zero in Yorkshire
• The Yorkshire Visitor Economy and Cultural Industries
Together Yorkshire is about increasing awareness of the work of the Yorkshire Leaders Board and providing an opportunity for all those involved in relevant Yorkshire organisations to consider what more can be effectively done at a county level. The Yorkshire Leaders Board has the potential to be the fulcrum around which a whole range of effective partnerships could thrive. There needs to be a strong collective voice for Yorkshire within the formal and informal institutions of the Northern Powerhouse to match the influence of Greater Manchester.
The Together Yorkshire seminar series will agree some common priorities and a full report will be presented to the Yorkshire Leaders Board in October
It is a time to believe the sky is the limit and that we can at last prove David Cameron wrong!
Full details of the Together Yorkshire Seminar at which all are welcome can be found at: https://togetheryorkshire.org/