Column: Hope that Yorkshire voices not ignored

Frenchgate and Baxter Gate, Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Town Centre MC 3
Frenchgate and Baxter Gate, Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Town Centre MC 3

Having turned their back on a Sheffield City Region deal worth £900m and £30m per year for the next 10 years, both Barnsley and Doncaster are now committed to a potentially meaningless referendum experiment to secure views of “the people” for a Yorkshire deal that the Government has already rebuked – costing the tax payer in excess of £100,000. Whilst I can see why people could be seduced with a Yorkshire wide deal – particularly those in power, I have to ask why Barnsley and Doncaster didn’t ask the same question of the people, before they arbitrarily turned their back on the £900m Sheffield City Region deal.

For me the purpose of any devolution deal is to take powers away from Whitehall and give them to local structures to make decisions instead – isn’t a Yorkshire wide deal, instead of a Sheffield City region deal doing the complete opposite?

My biggest fear is that people are being ask to clear up this Sheffield City Region mess

And isn’t there a danger that something so huge will be disconnected from localities. Nonetheless, if we are going to do this, I sincerely hope that Doncaster and Barnsley do not ignore voices of the rest of the Yorkshire region, which should include Sheffield and Rotherham Councils too.

Given we have embarked on this role “of speaking to the people” I have to ask where was this same sentiment applied when the failed care homes were decided to be privatised, or the failed school academies were first set up, or when Doncaster agreed to a Children’s Trust, where were the people then? My biggest fear in this whole approach is that people are being asked to clear up this Sheffield City Region mess. More fundamentally, if we are going to do this, then it is critical that all the 20 local authorities in Yorkshire put their fair share of financial contribution into the pot, so that the people of Doncaster and Barnsley are assured, that it’s not just them picking up the tab. Equally, I do hope that this money will be given to local community groups, including diverse groups and charities in the region to undertake this research, instead of some rich private body. I can assure you many of these community groups and charities in the region are struggling to keep afloat during these austere times – and it’s not helped when local authorities can spend money in this way on something which the Government has already said will result in a no deal – I’m not saying communities are being set up – but I can say, that I’m not the only one thinking it.