One Yorkshire Conference Speech

Speech delivered at Cloth Hall Court, Leeds on the 8th March 2019

It is a pleasure to join colleagues and friends from across Yorkshire here this afternoon.

We are here today because we all share a common objective:

to meet our responsibility in working together to best serve the interests of our communities.

Achieving that objective will require perseverance and persistence.

And in that spirit, I want to share with you the story of Walter Greaves.

Walter was from Bradford, and in 1936, set out to beat the world record for distance cycled in a year.

He tackled obstacle after obstacle to achieve his goal.

Walter didn’t have any of the fancy equipment that cyclists have today.

His bike arrived late, meaning he would have to increase his daily mileage in order to beat the record by the end of the year.

He began his challenge in one of the harshest winters for years,

He managed to cover an astonishing 500 miles in the first five days,

despite falling off his bike 19 times!

But still, Walter persevered.

In July, he collided with a car and spent the next two weeks in hospital.

Recovering from his operation, he continued his ride, travelling from Yorkshire to London and back again.

He finished at midnight on New Year’s Eve on the steps of the town hall in Bradford, having cycled 45,353 miles and setting a new world record.

Walter’s is a story of immense drive and determination, as he battled against the odds to achieve his goal.

But there’s something I haven’t told you about Walter

he only had one arm!

 

In some ways, the present situation we find ourselves in is not so different to Walter’s.

Because like Walter, we have an ambitious goal;

we are not coming from the strongest position;

and the obstacles we face are huge.

The Brexit debate has shown our country to be more divided than at any point in our lifetimes.

And the decisions that are made now will shape the future of our country for generations to come.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, 58% of people voted to leave the European Union.

We mustn’t lose sight of some of the reasons they did:

  • The status quo was not delivering for them and their families.
  • And they were frustrated that their voices were not being heard in Westminster, Whitehall, or in Brussels.

They had every right to feel that way, and they still do.

Because set alongside the question of Brexit is an increasing concern about regional inequality; and a view that for too long, Yorkshire and the North has been missing out on its fair share of national investment.

They are right.

Because not only do the people of Yorkshire receive an income that is 80% of the national average; they also receive £300 per head less than the national average in terms of public spending.

The gap between Yorkshire and London and the South East is equally stark when we look at transport spending:

According to the Government’s own figures, for £1 per head of national infrastructure investment spent on transport across Yorkshire and the Humber, £3.20 is spent on London’s transport networks.

And because of our lack of power to co-ordinate between different parts of our region – our residents are disadvantaged:

If you break down the cost of an annual rail ticket per journey,

the train ride from Barnsley to Sheffield costs £1.95.

But the journey from Barnsley to Wakefield – despite being 3 miles less – costs £2.89.

How can this be right?

It is a direct result of failing to get the balance right between central decision-making and decision-making that is too localised to take a strategic and joined-up approach.

  • It suppresses the numbers of people travelling across the artificial boundary between South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.
  • It restricts choice and opportunity for residents – particularly those in lower paid jobs.
  • And it limits business’ access to the workforce.

Good transport networks hold the key to unlocking our full potential as a region.

And we know the power that investment has to transform our economy:

Great Yorkshire Way is a stretch of road that was built to link up Doncaster Sheffield Airport with the M18.

From an initial £56m investment – and as a result of public and private sectors working together – our region unlocked £1.8bn worth of investment; creating 1,200 jobs; supporting national airport capacity by delivering airport growth; aiding the development of iPort – one of the UK’s largest logistics developments.

And all of this was achieved whilst regenerating a former colliery community.

We need more projects like Great Yorkshire Way.

But we also need the resources and powers to deliver those projects.

 

For the last year, working with others, I have been using my position – as both Mayor and a Member of Parliament – to make the case to Government that we need to see a greater and fairer share of national infrastructure investment.

 

I have held various ministerial meetings to discuss how we achieve this greater investment – and earlier this week I led a Westminster Hall debate calling for greater regional transport infrastructure investment.

But we are not yet getting the answers that we want or need.

A failure of successive Governments to invest sufficiently in the North and in Yorkshire, continues to have consequences across many of our communities:

  • Residents are cut off from employment opportunities;
  • They feel little benefit from growth in the major cities.
  • And decades of systemic underinvestment means that our region’s political leaders – many of whom are in this room today – are unable to find common solutions to the problems that we face.

This simply isn’t good enough.

 

But our current predicament isn’t just about the centralisation of wealth and income in London and the South East.

It is about a much more fundamental, deep rooted problem that has existed in our country for generations:

The concentration of political and economic power in Westminster and Whitehall.

Together with a lack of investment, this results in a political and economic status quo that is not working for Britain’s regions.

And it begs the question – how do we give people a stake in their communities?

I believe that devolution holds some of the answers – but we must get the right solution.

Because devolution is not just about transferring powers from one group of politicians in London to another group in Britain’s regions.

It is about giving communities the power to manage their own affairs – so that decisions are made with and by communities – rather than being made for them by others.

It involves giving everyone a seat at the table – so that everyone has a voice.

We need a political renewal that fixes our broken system: replacing it with a fully empowered three-tier system of government – local, regional and national; giving each tier the powers and resources that they need to make a difference in the communities to which they are accountable.

If leaders across Yorkshire work together – we can really make a difference.

Because we are the people best placed to exercise the powers that will deliver the changes people need.

And we need to work together on the big issues:

  • Giving people the means by which they can have a decent family life, by creating secure, stable and well-paid jobs;
  • Providing good public services, decent quality housing and an education system that both prepares our young people – and supports adults throughout their working lives;
  • Preserving our unique culture and our world-renowned countryside.

Yorkshire’s local authority leaders asked the Government to give us the powers to manage our own affairs; and they responded by asking us to do our homework.

And we did.

We made the economic case, which is underpinned by our globally renowned brand reputation.

And that, if we combine our regional assets and talents, we will have the collective clout to compete and co-operate with other parts of the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.

We proposed a robust Governance Structure, which would see a Mayor with everyone sitting around the table, with strong sub-regional arrangements.

We should not give up on those ambitions.

Because we have before us a once in a generation opportunity to break away from the stranglehold of centralisation that has failed to deliver for our communities.

I have said from the start that I believe the way that we achieve that is through a bold, ambitious – and dare I say ‘novel’ approach to devolution.

And I believe a One Yorkshire deal is the right way forward.

I stood on this platform to be the Mayor of the Sheffield City Region –  and I was given a mandate on that basis by the people of South Yorkshire.

One Yorkshire has the backing of communities; businesses; trade unions; the majority of our region’s locally elected politicians – and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.

Last week, at Fountains Abbey, it was encouraging that Secretary of State James Brokenshire agreed to further explore our proposals.

But we must be pragmatic about how we achieve our goal within the current status quo.

Rome was not built in a day.

Devolution is a process – not an event;

It is a process in which we build from the bottom up;

And we can do this whilst maintaining the goal of reaching a One Yorkshire deal.

This is why I am committed to reaching an agreement on the 2015 Sheffield City Region deal;

And I believe that other parts of Yorkshire can come to their own short-term arrangements with the Government.

Because the reality is that, right now, communities in South Yorkshire require significant investment just as communities in the North, East and West of our region do.

To draw down that investment, we must demonstrate to Government that at a sub-regional level, we have strong and robust governance procedures in place to allocate investment where we know it is needed.

But we should continue to work together to demonstrate the value that One Yorkshire devolution will bring for both our region and the country.

So, as we move forwards, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for us to stick together.

We must foster the collaboration that I know will secure our success as a region.

The Government’s current approach to devolution has forced competition between our sub regions in Yorkshire.

No more.

In Yorkshire, we go forward as one.

We do not need to wait for Government’s permission to work together:

  • it is something we are already doing;
  • but it is something we need to do more of.

David Cameron once famously said that people in Yorkshire hated each other.

Well if he popped his head out of his luxury shepherd’s hut, he would see that we have built a cross-party coalition that has come together to do the best by our communities and our region.

My late friend and colleague Jo Cox was absolutely right when she said that we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.

We do have lots in common.

We are getting along.

Because we know we are stronger together.

So, today, my message to the Government is clear:

  • Yorkshire is a proud county;
  • We want the best for our region.
  • We want to work with you – not against you, to deliver for Yorkshire.

And my message to all of you is that the only thing standing in the way of achieving our goal is giving up.

So I say – quite simply – let’s be more like Walter.

Thank you.

–  Mayor Dan Jarvis