Budget: Osborne to confirm Yorkshire devolution talks

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THE drive to give Yorkshire greater control over its own affairs will take a major step forward when George Osborne reveals detailed talks are underway in his Summer Budget today.

It is expected the Chancellor will confirm devolution discussions have begun with two groups of Yorkshire councils, putting them at the front of the queue of English regions looking to take powers from Whitehall.

Mr Osborne has insisted adopting elected mayors will be a condition of devolution deals but both the Leeds and Sheffield city region areas are making clear they will not sign up to such a move until they see the details of what is on offer.

Proposals from the Leeds city region group of authorities - taking in West Yorkshire and some of its neighbours - include sweeping transport powers, raising money from businesses to pay for major infrastructure schemes and offering developers incentives to get projects off the ground.

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Coun Peter Box, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “I can confirm that West Yorkshire leaders are in talks with the Government about devolution.

“We have made it clear to government that we are hugely ambitious and we are putting forward a set of asks that matches our ambitions.”

Coun Box also confirmed discussions are underway to find ways for West and South Yorkshire to work closely together and there are emerging proposals for a ‘council of the North’ to make sure that areas collaborate rather than compete against each other.

Sheffield City Region Combined Authority chairman Sir Steve Houghton said: “We are in negotiation with the Government to see what extra powers and abilities they are prepared to give the Sheffield City Region.

“No decisions have been made yet.”

Today’s Budget, Mr Osborne’s first as a Conservative rather than Coalition Chancellor, is an opportunity for him to restore some of the gloss to his ‘northern powerhouse’ economic project which was badly tarnished when the Government shelved major rail electrification schemes for Yorkshire last month.

But he will also have to set out detail on how the Government will meet its promises to cut public spending, including £12 billion of welfare savings, with tax credits expected to bear the brunt.

New figures from Labour suggest Yorkshire would be one of the areas hardest hit by any such move with 56 per cent of families with children receiving tax credits.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch said: “David Cameron and George Osborne still haven’t come clean about exactly what cuts to tax credits they are proposing, but it is becoming increasingly clear that low-paid families are in the firing line.

“And as has so often been the case under the Tories, it’s families here in Yorkshire who are going to feel it most – it’s hardly a surprise that Cameron and Osborne deliberately concealed their proposals from public view during the election.”