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Opinion: Limited Devolution may be ok for Manchester, but Yorkshire deserves better

November 5, 2014

Alisdair Calder McGregor, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Calder Valley, has kindly allowed us to reproduce his blog piece from Lib Dem Voice. He writes that limited devolution might work for Manchester but Yorkshire deserves better. His view is somewhat at odds with those of his party leader but we welcome them as a very laudable contribution to the devolution debate. Talking of which don’t forget to watch BBC Look North’s Special on BBC1 at 22.35  More Power for Yorkshire? Tim Iredale asks if people in Yorkshire should have more say about the key decisions that affect their lives. The attractiveness of a Yorkshire assembly is given a good airing I understand.

 

Opinion: Limited Devolution may be ok for Manchester, but Yorkshire deserves better

The news that George Osborne is offering further powers to Manchester (if – and only if – they turn their backs on the democratic will of the people and implement an elected Mayor in spite of Manchester voting “No” to having one) has been enthusiastically accepted by the Manchester Labour Party, because, as with all local Labour parties, they very much prefer a government that cannot be scrutinized and wields power in secret, unaccountable meetings.

Yorkshire deserves far better than this Tory & Labour stitch-up of an end-run around democracy and accountability.

At the Yorkshire & Humber Regional Conference this past weekend, our outright opposition to the “city region” model for Yorkshire was made quite plain. The conference passed the motion outlined at the bottom of this post, calling for a radical devolution of power to Yorkshire as a region.

As is quite clear from this motion, the Liberal Democrats in Yorkshire & Humber do not want, and will reject, any attempt to further carve up Yorkshire to Tory & Labour gerrymandered specifications.

We will reject any form of devolution that increases the unaccountable city regions, which merely centralize power away from the town, parish & community councils that form people’s real attachment to government in Yorkshire.

If you want devolution to work, it has to be done by consent of the people, and people will not accept rule by Leeds. I lived for 7 years in Bradford – try going there and telling people they are going to be part of Leeds City Region – and then start running!

There is no reason to delay devolution in Yorkshire. We want a Yorkshire Parliament, we want it elected by STV, we want equivalent powers to Scotland, and we want it now.

The motion from last weekend’s Yorkshire and Humber Liberal Democrat regional conference reads:

Conference Notes that:
1. Spring 2014 Liberal Democrat Federal Party Conference in York passed Policy Paper 117 “Power to the People”, which included proposals for regional devolution
2. The Liberal Democrats and their precursor parties have a long-standing commitment to democracy and devolution
3. The current City Regions and combined authorities lack democratic legitimacy and accountability
4. Research by the University of Huddersfield indicates that 75% of Yorkshire residents are in favour of Yorkshire regional devolution
5. The population and GDP of Yorkshire is roughly equivalent to that of Scotland

Furthermore, Conference believes that:
i. Yorkshire forms a single recognisable region, with a common culture, dialect, and identity which is one of the strongest in the UK
ii. Power is best exercised by those directly elected by and accountable to the people, and at the closest possible level to the people

Therefore, Conference calls for:
A. Regional Devolution for Yorkshire, consisting of a single directly elected parliament
B. Election to the Yorkshire Parliament to be by STV in multi-member constituencies
C. Powers devolved to Yorkshire to be equivalent to those devolved to the Scottish Parliament
D. A corresponding reduction to the size of the federal parliament of the UK in Westminster once devolution is complete
E. The powers and funding of regional and sub-regional Quangos to be subsumed into the Yorkshire Parliament
F. Abolition of the offices of Police and Crime Commissioners for the Yorkshire Police forces, with the powers to be subsumed into the Yorkshire Parliament

Conference further calls for:
a. The Yorkshire Parliament to be responsible for conducting the consequential reorganisation of local government within Yorkshire, towards a single tier of primary authorities
b. Town & Parish Councils to be retained and strengthened, and unparished areas encouraged to form Town, Parish and Community Councils
c. A presumption that as much power as possible shall be devolved to these authorities

* Alisdair Calder McGregor is the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Calder Valley.

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