Yorkshire’s devolution offer ‘a dictatorship’

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Jeremy Corbyn’s new shadow communities secretary and close far-left ally has denounced the Government’s devolution plan for Yorkshire as a ‘dictatorship’.

Jon Trickett, MP for Hemsworth in West Yorkshire, said promises of passing power from Whitehall to English regions by Chancellor George Osborne are nothing more than an PR exercise.

He doubts that devolution in Yorkshire has a long term future, and that pledges of city deals such as Sheffield’s, will wither away within a few years.

His comments come as he prepares to launch Labour’s own devolution plans, which Mr Trickett - a former leader of Leeds City Council - described as being ‘bottom up’ and in complete contrast to Mr Osborne’s offer.

“They say they want to remake the North of England, but this is about remaking George Osborne’s image,” said the shadow front-bencher, who supported Mr Corbyn throughout his leadership campaign.

The Government’s plan to give more powers to those areas which accept a directly elected mayor has ignored the views of the people, he argued, and he wants to ensure there is a referendum with local voters before a mayor is installed.

Ahead of the Government’s Devolution Bill’s second reading in the House of Commons tomorrow, he said: “You can’t impose mayors as a condition for devolution. “We will insist that there should be no top-down imposition. How can you have a democracy by imposing a particular form of governance.

“It’s what you would imagine in a dictatorship, not a democracy. If people don’t want them, why should they have them?”

He said devolution deals outside of Manchester are unlikely to ‘endure in the long term’ and proposals have ‘limited life’ in them.

Sheffield is the latest region to have been offered a deal from the Government with control over a £30m a year budget and its own transport strategy, if it backs having a directly elected mayor.

Mr Trickett wants to see powers transferred to the Greater Yorkshire bid, which includes the entire region, excluding South Yorkshire. He said this was preferable to smaller geographical areas, such as the Leeds City Region, vying for powers individually.

However Labour MP Jo Cox, for Batley and Spen, said the party needs to accept that George Osborne’s vision for devolution, that includes a mayor, is happening and csome ouncil leaders in Yorkshire are keen to proceed with the model.

She said: “The mayor is a reality. I wouldn’t chose to do it, it’s not what a Labour Government would have done, but this is happening.

“Labour needs to listen to the leaders who are working in those local authorities, and that their views and experiences are at the heart of Labour’s thinking.”