Good Afternoon Councillor Darren Longhorn
The Yorkshire Party has been experiencing a surge in interest and growth over the summer, as is seen from our 58,851 first preference votes, and estimated 170,000~ 1st and 2nd preference votes for YP leader Bob Buxton in the May West Yorkshire Mayoral Elections, in addition to a strong - and electorally influential- performance in the July Batley and Spen By Election. By standing For Yorkshire Devolution, Empowering Local People, and Fixing the Problems A Disconnected Westminster-Centric system cause; The Yorkshire Party is bringing more attention, investment, and political interest to Yorkshire.
The hard work done by Councillors like yourself goes a long way towards creating this growth and helping to implement Local Democracy and properly representative government, after all, unlike other major parties, the YP has no whipping system which enables Councillors to best serve their constituents, not a party machine. I have a few questions which members of the public may have about The Yorkshire Party, Yorkshire Devolution, and the works which our Councillors like you do.
Tell us about your ward, Shipley Centre & Dockfield. What lives do people lead, what problems do locals encounter, and what work do you carry out for your constituents?
Shipley Centre & Dockfield is one of five wards in the parliamentary constituency of Shipley. Shipley Town council itself is comprised of just four of those wards, the fifth being part of neighboring Baildon Parish Council.
Shipley is a mixed bag in terms of affluence, it includes the world heritage centre of Saltaire, a model village dating back to the industrial revolution, but Shipley itself, especially the shopping centre and surrounding areas of Centre & Dockfield, have a bit of an unloved feel about them. Whereas in the other wards people tend to have reasonable to well-paid jobs, much of Centre is low-paid or unemployed. The town Centre itself looks tired and is in need of refurbishment.
The council has only existed for just over a year, and since our first year was mostly during one lockdown or another, it was difficult to get things up and running. We focused on helping out with such things as supporting initiatives to provide school meals out of term time and improving the roads and paths to include outside areas that to help local businesses reopen as lock downs eased.
We got ourselves involved in the bid for money from the town's fund. Bradford council had neglected to invite us, but we got our chair on the board and I personally feel that we made a good contribution. Without our involvement there would have been little to no consultation with the electorate! And we won some money, though we don't know exactly which of our project bids are to be funded as yet.
We also carried out an audit of our allotments as the pandemic had boosted demand and Bradford council had left their management in a very sorry state for the most part.
Thank you Darren,
A lot of the issues you describe are similar to ones faced by communities all over Shipley, and indeed in Yorkshire more widely, areas and communities don't receive a fair share of attention or funding, not just from National Government schemes but even from local council budget allocation, as you describe with the good work you did for Shipley bidding for investment from Bradford council.
I find it eye opening that Bradford Council neglected to invite representatives from your ward to put forward local people's concerns and fight their corner. It speaks to me about how mainstream Local and National Government political parties fail to listen to communities and it requires hard working Councillors to take action to get better results.
Too often Labour and Conservative bickering, combined with a lack of transparency has negative effects for individuals and communities- Funding is not properly placed where it is Most Needed.
Which brings us to the next question,
Why did you join the Yorkshire Party?
Mostly for the reasons you highlighted! I'm a firm believer of decisions being made as close as possible to the people effected by their implementation. Localism. Why should people in Westminster determine rail investment in Yorkshire? Why should people in Bradford decide who should be inclined in funding applications in Shipley. To me these are just different facets of the same problem. People wonder why the electorate are disengaged, but it's because decision making is opaque and happens far away!
I used to be a Lib Dem, because for a long time they seemed to support this view, and in particular campaigned for devolution and a federal UK of the regions. They seem to have forgotten that, these days though. The closer they got to power the less radical their ideas seemed to get.
So when I discovered the Yorkshire Party, in the ballot box in 2014 EU election, I knew I had to find out more. And what I found out, I liked. It soon became apparent that it was a very small party and the best way to help was to join. So I quit the Lib Dems and joined the Yorkshire Party.
I delivered leaflets in the 2015 general election and then lost touch for a bit. I got more involved in 2019 when I stood in the Bradford Council Election & General Election. I was going to stand in the Shipley Town Council Election, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic, though I ended up being co-opted. I stood in the postponed election in 2021 and was elected unopposed.
That is one of the best features of The Yorkshire Party that I have noticed.
the message of Localism, Subsidiarity, and Devolution are principles which cut across political divides and traditional voting blocks. Many are fed up of Westminster Unaccountability and are looking for new ideas and directions to take, Fully Established Yorkshire Devolution is desired and has strong electoral legs now and in the Future, as is seen this year, with Yorkshire Party Leader Bob Buxton Receiving 58,851 First Preference Votes, and tens of thousands more second preference votes. As well as influencing the Batley and Spen By Election result.
Proper Yorkshire Devolution with an elected Parliamentary body with the powers to Make Laws, Keep Taxation local, and have elected members offers more solutions to problems people face in Yorkshire, while also opening up the future for reductions in poverty and more investment in infrastructure, where it is most needed, by creating Yorkshire Wide Regional Development Strategies.
Such proposals for local government are not new in the UK, the Scotland Act 1996 and the Wales Act 2006 establish precedent for how Devolved Governments can be set up in other areas of the country, similar Proposals and Bills would be the precursor to The Yorkshire Parliament.
What does Devolution Mean to you?
Devolution means the transfer of real power and funding from distant Government to the people who can best represent local interests. Clearly, that applies to devolution from Westminster to Yorkshire which should include, education, transport and health at minimum. Holding those powers more locally and wielded by an elected assembly and parliament, means more transparency in decision making and more accountability for decisions made.
But it also applies to devolving powers from Metropolitan Council's to Town & Parish Councils. Currently the wielding of power is moving in the other direction. As an example of this, the Government's current white paper on planning will increase so called 'permitted development' taking many planning applications out of the hands of both Metropolitan council's and Town & Parish councils.
In regards to the white paper, does this mean that private development companies will be more able to take up land and planning applications from metropolitan+ Town parish councils, and build expensive private renting buildings, rather than say for example, affordable homes or council housing?
And final Question: How Will Yorkshire Devolution help to improve the lives of your constituents, and how do you see A Yorkshire Parliament creating benefit for all people in Yorkshire, Politically, Economically, and Socially?
Good question, but I don't know the complete answer to that I'm afraid. There is a reform of planning obligations and developer contributions that currently fall within what is known as CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy). That's what determines the contribution that a developer has to make towards improvement in local infrastructure to support the new residents of their homes. Who knows, the reforms could actually be an improvement, CIL is often criticised as being opaque and negotiated in backrooms between planners and developers, with those obligations and contributions often taking years to materialise, or be negotiated down between initial planning consent and delivery! What it does mean though, is that certain types of development are pre-approved. If you want to build such and such on such and such type of land, you won't have to go through the full planning procedure. Lots of 5G towers get fast-tracked currently in this way.
I don't think it's particular to my constituents, but I think that devolution for Yorkshire would help to reconnect people to the political realm. Taking control of decision making and the funding to really implement change will enable real change. We can decide what infrastructure projects we really need, so that instead of shaving a few minutes from the time it takes to get to London, we can take 30-40 minutes off the time it takes to get to Hull, Manchester or Liverpool. We can improve education so that people like Corey don't have to leave the region to get the university education that they need. And finally, we can improve not just the health care after people get ill, but we can improve the environment and help reduce the cause of chronic illnesses, such as asthma for example, by investing in green public transport and incentives and infrastructure for green private transport.
Councillor Darren Longhorn, Shipley Centre & Dockfield