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Do we want a Boris for the North or just the power to do things for ourselves?

January 24, 2014

Amid recent calls for a Boris for the North or a Minister for Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Devolution Movement (YDM) has written to local council leaders to see how the people in the county can have a greater say in how they are governed. (letter reproduced below)

YDM Chairman Nigel Sollitt said:

“Yorkshire had a good year in 2013. We won the right to host the opening stages of the Tour de France and there was added recognition of Yorkshire as one of the premier tourist destinations in the world.

“Both accolades show the fantastic potential the county has and, where it has the powers to do things for itself, how much is possible, not just in a domestic sense, but also on a global stage.

“Too often though there is the familiar story of Yorkshire missing out on money and influence. So there is an acceptance that we need to do things differently in Yorkshire and that the county needs a voice in the same way London, Scotland and Wales have but there is no agreement how this should happen.

“As we have seen recently, some are calling for a ‘Boris for the North’ others a Minister for Yorkshire’ and there are other would-be solutions too.

“The YDM doesn’t want a Boris type figure, but we do want a discussion and debate about the future of Yorkshire; essentially what is the best way to deliver economic, social and environmental progress?

“YDM is calling for a ‘Yorkshire Conversation’ (in essence a constitutional convention in the same way the Scots had) or a Royal Commission as has been suggested which will bring together people from all backgrounds from right across Yorkshire to have that discussion.”

The YDM written to all council leaders, MPs, MEPs and other political figures in the region.

Mr. Sollitt went on:

“Whatever happens in May, hopefully, 2014 will see a move away from the dead hand of Westminster and Whitehall and a real chance for Yorkshire to unleash the undoubted potential we have here.”


Letter to local government leaders calling for a ‘Yorkshire Conversation’


As a non-party political group the Yorkshire Devolution Movement supports all measures that devolve more power and enhance local democracy and participation of the people of Yorkshire as citizens not just consumers of services.

We also recognise the shortcomings of our current arrangements for ensuring the region has clarity of purpose and direction to deliver for our people and believe we need a ‘conversation for Yorkshire’.

We welcome the LGA campaign around ‘Rewiring Public Services’.

We also recognise the approaching difficulties around funding and the pressure this will place on our representatives to find solutions that work for the people of the region. We also recognise that people need to be both engaged in this process and part of the solution to the challenges we face. We need creativity and fresh thinking to make a successful future.

Despite the challenges, this represents an opportunity to take ‘Rewiring Public Services’ a step further in regions that desire it.

Our region with a real sense of identity, as well as very real challenges, needs more joined up thinking to succeed in the modern world. You only need to look at how Welcome to Yorkshire has performed to see some of the benefits of working together.

Over the last 40 years local government and regions have had many reorganisations and powers to act taken away. This, at the same time as our regions challenges have increased. But we are optimists who believe that things could be improved if the region was given more power to act. Not only have the ‘celtic fringe’ received more powers to act, but so has London. In those regions with devolved powers and assemblies support has increased significantly for devolution.

It is time for Yorkshire to take the initiative and begin to act to influence our future to make us a successful region within the United Kingdom.

But in order to do this a conversation is needed.

There are very few places where a ‘Conversation for Yorkshire’ can naturally take place. Local Government Yorkshire & Humber (LGYH), and the City Regions are however, perhaps key bodies that could facilitate this.
The aim of a ‘Conversation for Yorkshire’ should be to get political and community commitment to finding a governing solution that works for the people of Yorkshire at both regional & local level.
• It does not ask people or organisations, to commit to the future shape of the ‘solution’, but rather gets them to commit to exploring it
• Gets input and commitment from a wide range of organisations
• Creates unity behind any agreed scheme
It should be ‘independent’ or non-partisan to gain the widest legitimacy but clearly needs political support for success to be achieved. It should determine its own terms of reference. However, we believe it should consist of two parts, to ensure the will of the people and not just those of politicians is understood and acted upon.
We should consider having a ‘peoples gathering’ to explore:
• Participation – How can the public be involved in policy, strategy development and service improvement
• Powers – What are the most appropriate levels for decision making on various issues & delivery
• Vision of the future – What people want – Quality of life issues, involvement in society, role of authorities etc
In turn this could lead to a more formalised constitutional convention, which should consider:
• Powers – Whether there would be any benefits in drawing more powers from Westminster and how to ensure democratic legitimacy & involvement
• Efficiency – Opportunity for shared services and control of costs
• Vision for the future
We request your support as a regional leader for such a conversation, and request that it is discussed in your authority and in other sub regional and regional forums.
The Yorkshire Devolution Movement will be running various campaigns to draw attention and gather support over the coming months. However, we would be happy to meet with anyone individually or collectively to discuss this further and how we could make this happen. We would be delighted to hear your thoughts on how we can progress this further.
Yours faithfully

Nigel Sollitt
Chair, YDM


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