Business asks Osborne for a Humber mayor

GEORGE Osborne has been told it is time for the Humber to have an elected mayor by three leading business organisations.

By James Reed, Political Correspondent
Tuesday, 16th June 2015, 1:28 pm
George Osborne said he was "open" to a conversation about an elected mayor for Yorkshire
George Osborne said he was "open" to a conversation about an elected mayor for Yorkshire

The Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses have written a joint letter to the Chancellor arguing the radical move is needed to ensure the improvement in the area’s fortunes, centred on ambitious plans to be a green energy hub, continues.

The Chancellor has promised to hand areas significant powers as part of his vision to create a “northern powerhouse” for the economy by better connecting the cities and towns of the North.

But he has made clear that a condition of any handover will be areas adopting elected mayors. an idea that has previously been resisted in the region.

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In their joint letter, the three organisations tell Mr Osborne that with his support “the region can now go forward and play a vital and more active part in your Northern Powerhouse concept.

“To achieve this though we believe an “Elected Mayor for the Humber” will be required and would ask that you consider entering into discussions with us as a business community and with other stakeholders to achieve this.”

The letter puts the Humber business community on a collision course with Hull City Council leader Stephen Brady who last week suggested efforts to work across the Humber were faltering and called for a Yorkshire-wide body.

Dr Ian Kelly, chief executive of the Hull a Humber Chamber of Commerce, said: “If devolution is coming what the business community wants is a strong, bright, strategic thinking local Mayor for the Humber, not weak local leadership which hands over our destiny to people in Leeds, Lincoln, or elsewhere”.

The letter represents one of the first serious attempts to engage with Mr Osborne’s desire to install elected mayors in the region.

It is also significant in proposing a single elected mayor for the whole of the Humber where co-operation between the north and south banks has historically proved politically difficult.

Greater Manchester has already agreed a deal with Mr Osborne which will see the city elect a mayor and consultations have already begun in West Yorkshire over whether it should follow suit.

The idea of having a single mayor for the whole of Yorkshire is also being floated and today Mr Osborne told MPs: “I’m not trying to impose a model on any particular area. It is up to local metro areas to come forward with their proposals.

“But I am clear that if you are going to see a massive transfer of power from national government to local government you have to have a single point of accountability, someone who carries the can and drives the process forward.

“The authorities of Greater Manchester have agreed with me that should be the an elected mayor. As I say it is up to the authorities of West Yorkshire, indeed the whole of Yorkshire, how they want to proceed and my door is open to a conversation.”

The Chancellor was responding to a question from Liberal Democrat Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland who said he was proud that the Coalition government had started the northern powerhouse plan.

“Now that it seems clear that we are going to have to have a mayor in the Leeds city region area can I ask the right honourable gentleman to seriously consider the possibility of having a Yorkshire-wide mayor to rejoin together that wonderful county which could be a real powerhouse for the whole of this nation?”