Speak Out: we need an Assembly to act for us

Under a ‘Speak Out’ banner, Huddersfield member Bikatshi Katenga will be writing some personal commentary pieces for the website from a Yorkshire or a Yorkshire Party perspective. Her views are her own and do not necessarily reflect official Party policy.

The mother-of-three is a graduate in broadcast journalism.

Bikatshi Katenga

She stood as a parliamentary candidate for Huddersfield in the 2017 General Election and in the 2018 local elections

My wish for 2019

A year ago, the people of Barnsley and Doncaster were asked in a local referendum whether they wanted their future to be part of either the Sheffield City Region or the One Yorkshire devolution deal. The result was an overwhelming vote for One Yorkshire.

A few months later in May, a vote was held for the new post of Sheffield City Mayor. Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis won the contest with a manifesto that categorically stated his desire for a One Yorkshire deal. In fact, the three parties promoting the One Yorkshire deal (including the Yorkshire Party) achieved more than 70% of votes cast.

Later in the summer – on Yorkshire Day – representatives of all parties, council leaders, people from business, the trade unions, the Yorkshire youth parliament, civic society and others met under the leadership of the Archbishop of York to launch the One Yorkshire campaign.

All of this within the past 12 months and yet nothing has happened!

The Government still stalls on giving the whole of Yorkshire its own devolution settlement, insisting on the Sheffield City Region, which, as the polls have shown, the people don’t want when asked.

Many issues that led so many people in Yorkshire to vote leave in the Brexit referendum have not been addressed; among these are the massive underfunding in the region’s schools and infrastructure.

Recent studies have ranked Yorkshire among the poorest 10 regions of Northern Europe, and in November a UN report on poverty highlighted both the extent of poverty and the existing disparities in areas in the UK, thus condemning our children to poverty.

I am apprehensive of the negative impact the lack of opportunities would have on the future job prospects of children living in our region. Our children deserve much better and as a mother of three children, I believe things cannot carry on as they have been.

That is why I believe only a Yorkshire Assembly can speak for the needs and aspirations of the people living in every city, town, village, estate and hamlet of our region. Unlike the current top-down model of governance, a Yorkshire Assembly’s prime purpose would be to empower people from every level of society to participate fully in decisions affecting both their communities and their region’s future.

Another benefit of a Yorkshire Assembly would be the transformation of our region into one of economic and social prosperity and inclusion, and ecological sustainability.

For so many reasons Yorkshire needs devolution NOW! We fall further behind the rest of the country in terms of our economy.  We fall further behind the rest of the country in terms of our economy. Recent figures show that our economy hasn’t recovered since the banking crisis and the subsequent recession. The gloomy statistics show our gross-value-added per head in Yorkshire is still less that it was in 2008 and at about 80% of the UK average.

And one other thing: we have nobody speaking up for Yorkshire. Contrast that with the ubiquitous Andy Burnham putting the case for Greater Manchester and, indeed, often for the North.

I say 2019 has to be the year when we get our One Yorkshire devolution settlement. We know this is popular with people – all the polls show that. We must harness that popular support and tell the Government to get in with it.

I am involved in a couple of key campaigns, which will hopefully channel that popular support into real action so watch this space!

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