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‘Divine intervention’ hope for Yorkshire devolution stalemate as Archbishop urged to ‘bang heads together’

CHURCH leaders could help break a bitter stalemate over a long-awaited devolution deal for Yorkshire.

Keighley MP John Grogan revealed in a Parliamentary debate on Tuesday that he had written to Archbishop of York John Sentamu, asking him to mediate between the different factions of politicians and finally help broker a multi-million-pound deal for the region, similar to those struck in Manchester and the West Midlands.

Now Mr Grogan has told the Telegraph & Argus that he hoped the Archbishop could hold a meeting and “bang a few heads together”.

He said the Archbishop had agreed to study the matter and would also consult with the bishops of Leeds and Sheffield before deciding how best to proceed.

In the debate on Tuesday, ministers had ruled out a proposal by 17 of the 20 Yorkshire councils, dubbed One Yorkshire, which would involve an elected mayor ruling over all their areas.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry said the inclusion of Doncaster and Barnsley in this plan would “undermine” a deal already struck for South Yorkshire.

Mr Berry said the Government would only consider a deal for the so-called Greater Yorkshire footprint, which excludes South Yorkshire – a proposal put forward by some councils two years ago.

On Wednesday, Mr Grogan, a supporter of the One Yorkshire plan, said he was “disappointed” by Mr Berry’s comments but insisted it was not the end of the road for the idea.

He said: “The logic is definitely for One Yorkshire. That’s what people identify as. ‘Yorkshire’ is what Bradford City, the Keighley Cougars and Sheffield Wednesday chant on the terraces. The identity of Yorkshire is known throughout the world.”

Mr Grogan, a Labour MP, accused both Labour and the Tories of trying to “salami slice” Yorkshire to swing the result of a mayoral election in their favour.

He said a One Yorkshire deal might lead to a tighter race in a mayoral election but that a “competitive contest” was good for democracy.

Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe responded with frustration to the Government veto, but insisted that the one Yorkshire idea was not dead.

She said: “The One Yorkshire deal is still on the table. Seventeen local authorities across party lines are signed up and ready to negotiate with Government.

“Government was clear that local authorities should come up with a local solution and that’s exactly what we’ve done several times now.

“We said we’d do a city region deal, they said no; we said we’d do a Yorkshire deal, again they now sound to be negative about that.

“I’ve an appointment to see Jake Berry in London in the next few weeks because I want to work constructively with Government.”

But Bradford Council’s Conservative group leader Simon Cooke backed Mr Berry, criticising the South Yorkshire councils of Barnsley and Doncaster for walking away from their South Yorkshire deal and joining the One Yorkshire camp.

He said: “Doncaster and Barnsley decided they had got a better deal elsewhere.

“Barnsley and Doncaster behaved as if they went to a wedding, they got married, then they got back home and slept with the next-door neighbour.”

Cllr Cooke said a Greater Yorkshire deal had been on the table for two years now, and urged council leaders to take it.

He said: “The solution to it is for them to agree to a Greater Yorkshire deal. That has been the case for two years now, so that’s the reality.

“Had West Yorkshire councils agreed to that two years ago, we would have elected a mayor this year.”

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