IF you don’t sign up to a devolution deal and elect a mayor then the Government will starve your region of cash. This was one of the most powerful messages to emerge from Wednesday’s budget.

It's been heard loud and clear in Yorkshire whose politicians are now accusing the Chancellor of snubbing them in favour of areas, such as Tees Valley, that signed up to power share agreements.

The failure of England’s largest county to agree a devo deal could see it left in the cold. Durham, Gateshead and other regional refuseniks also risk being shoved to the back of the queue when Treasury funds are dished out.

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Say what you like about George Osborne but there was a cynical brilliance about his insistence that spending powers would only be shifted from Whitehall if regions agreed to elect mayors. That nifty bit of policy two years ago is gradually steamrollering the powerbases which council chiefs enjoyed for centuries.

Those in favour of devolution say it creates a new consensus where neighbouring authorities work together for the greater good. The flipside is that the interests of some authorities get ignored, while we get a new layer of bureaucracy with ambiguous loyalties.

County Durham’s decision to remain outside the soon-to-be-formed coalition of North-East councils is brave, but could prove foolhardy. Durham is a relatively large authority with an innovative leadership so striking out alone may work in its favour. The alternative - throwing its lot in with the North Tyne authorities in order to secure more funding - could have seen its interests take a back seat to those of Newcastle.

We admire Durham and Yorkshire’s fiercely independent stance but this week's budget signalled the Government's intention to punish mavericks and reward those who fall into line. This is consensus by force; a war of attrition in which there looks like being only one winner.