Once again York is being touted as the new home for the House of Lords.
Several newspapers are claiming that the move of government departments to the City is gaining traction. One even claims that some officials have been “house hunting” in the area.
As we have said before, re-establishing York as the capital of the north is an attractive prospect. The City has excellent transport links while an ideal location for a second chamber – or whatever you may wish to call it – exists next to the railway station.
The prospect must be enticing for City leaders. But any move is likely to be a decade away and much can happen in the interim.
It may, or may not, be a coincidence that at precisely the same time as this enticing prospect hit the headlines again another, less welcome, government initiative floated into view.
The North Yorkshire Mayor
As well as the prospect of devolved resources from Whitehall, the North Yorkshire Mayor would take on some powers which have hitherto been rooted in local communities. Not least amongst these is strategic planning. Decisions on, for example, York’s Green Belt could rest in the hands of a politician who would, based on election results during the last 40 years, be unlikely to enjoy the support of most York residents.
That was a recurring issue when the City formed part of the North Yorkshire County Council between 1973 and 1997. Controversial, even perverse, decisions are easier to take when those affected are 40 (or 200) miles away.
Eventually poor and insensitive decision making on essentially local issues led to the City reasserting an element of independence.
The next few weeks may be a critical time for York. A positive and proactive strategy is needed to lead the City out of the health crisis.
Negotiations on devolution, and the prospect of another local government reorganisation, will be an unwelcome distraction.
City leaders must get their priorities right.