Speaking with one voice for devolution
Natalie Sykes, regional director, Institute of Directors
Naturally, I am ‘thinking’ Yorkshire. And, much looking forward to Yorkshire Day next Wednesday, 1 August. A day when the region unites to celebrate all that is great about God’s Own County.
And this year’s Yorkshire Day will have special resonance as it will also mark the official launch of the ‘One Yorkshire’ campaign at Bishopthorpe Palace in York. The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu is hosting an afternoon tea do this. But of course, this is not just a new initiative, it has been worked on in the background for a solid year.
The IoD is supportive of One Yorkshire and I and several of my colleagues will be attending next week’s event. The campaign is backed by 18 Yorkshire councils and is calling for One Yorkshire devolution with a single elected mayor representing the region’s five million people. We support devolution for Yorkshire, whatever shape that may take.
Yorkshire is similar in size to Scotland and as such needs the power to speak for a region with its scale and influence. Devolved powers are a much better way to deliver the priorities – infrastructure, skills and housing – that have been identified as enabling Yorkshire to continue to grow and succeed.
Indeed, the IoD’s own devolved structure has enabled its leaders to get closer to the regions and the businesses and communities within them to discover the changes which need to be made to deliver the biggest impact.
Devolved powers must be backed by the necessary resources to implement the favoured improvements and priorities – I’m not sure the extra £1 billion a year identified by those behind the One Yorkshire campaign will be sufficient but it would be a significant start.
Of the improvements which Yorkshire needs, it is impossible to ignore the transformation required to our digital and transport infrastructure. A recent IoD report – The future of connected business – highlighted how the UK needs to take advantage of existing technology to improve its connectivity in transport and internet access.
The report singled out the Northern Powerhouse and also encouraged the government not to shy away from projects based on emerging technologies. It said the proposed Northern Powerhouse rail network could incorporate hyperloop technology which would provide ‘game-changing’ transport connections for the region’s population.
And only this week, in the wake of the government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review, the IoD highlighted how, at the projected rate of fibre optic rollout, we will take until 2025 to get to where many of our competitors were a few years ago in terms of broadband and mobile speeds.
These are the issues which One Yorkshire will need to consider as it plots its strategy going forward. Issues which business leaders know are imperative to the region maintaining its competitive advantage.
In addition to supporting One Yorkshire, the IoD is also backing the campaign to bring Channel 4’s national headquarters to Leeds. Congratulations to the City Region on making it to the shortlist with Birmingham and Manchester.
Let’s raise our hopes and imagine that Leeds is the new home to Channel 4 and that this milestone is the first of many that realises our region’s creative ambitions. Look at how creative we have been pretty much with nothing, imagine the possibilities with a little bit of something.
26 July 2018