Government slammed over 'no response' to devolution meeting request

Wakefield Council leader Peter Box has branded the government an "absolute disgrace" after accusing it of ignoring regional politicians who have put forward an economic case for Yorkshire devolution.

Yorkshire's hopes of a devolution deal have been hit by another setback
Yorkshire's hopes of a devolution deal have been hit by another setback

Speaking at a full council meeting, Coun Box claimed that ministers were too busy dealing with Brexit to speak to local authority leaders in the region about transferring powers.

Coun Box (Lab) became the 18th council leader to back a 'One Yorkshire' deal at the start of this year, but the government have refused to contemplate an agreement until the implementation of a separate plan in the Sheffield city region.

In July, he then promised to pursue a "unique" devolution deal for Wakefield, while stating he would continue to work with other councils on the One Yorkshire proposal.

Coun Box was the 18th leader to publicly back a 'One Yorkshire' solution, when he did so in January 2018.

But now it's been claimed that the government have not even replied to council leaders who wanted another round of talks.

Coun Box said: "Despite our differences, 18 of us have come together and we've put forward an economic case to the government, and we've done it.

"What have we got back from the government? Nothing.

"Everything at the moment is to do with Theresa May and the Conservative Party's angst over Brexit.

"We can't even get a response. We've offered to go down to London and meet the minister (for Communities and Local Government), but nothing.

"It's an absolute disgrace. They can't even be bothered to respond to a reasonable request to meet."

Wakefield's Tory group leader, Nadeem Ahmed, claimed that the deal was in doubt because of Labour divisions on the issue, and referenced Coun Box's reluctance to publicly back 'One Yorkshire' until January 2018.

He said: "In terms of devolution it was the divisions of West Yorkshire Labour leaders.

"You were part of that as well. You didn't have a united case for the four or five years I've been leader here.

"So those divisions resulted in the whole thing not happening there."

But Coun Box claimed that the government had "reneged" on promises on devolution, by insisting on elected mayors for cities after a deal was signed.

A 2012 referendum saw Wakefield voters clearly reject the concept of an elected mayor, with 62 per cent voting against the idea.

Coun Box added: "West Yorkshire leaders have been united from the start about we want.

"18 out of 20 have agreed to go for a One Yorkshire deal. It's your (Tory) MPs who are holding us back."