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West Yorks leaders urge PM to conclude devo deal in 2017

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Leaders in West Yorkshire have urged the prime minister to conclude a devolution deal “as soon as possible this year” along with more funding for the £627.5m Leeds city deal.

In a letter to Theresa May, copied in to communities secretary Sajid Javid and business secretary Greg Clark, West Yorkshire Combined Authority chair Peter Box (Lab) said gaining more “powers and resources are vital to deliver our part of a modern industrial strategy”.

Cllr Box, who is also leader of Wakefield MDC, said: “We are, however, concerned about the risk that government’s focus will be on other parts of the United Kingdom and Brexit negotiations. This would have the effect of further stalling progress in giving Yorkshire the tools it needs to prosper which will have direct economic effects, compounding the delays already caused by the general election and complex local discussions.”

The letter was sent on behalf of the other West Yorkshire leaders: Judith Blake, Leeds City Council; Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford City MBC; David Sheard, Kirklees Metropolitan Council; and Tim Swift, Claderdale MBC (all Labour).

While the Leeds City Region, which also includes Craven DC, Harrogate and Selby BCs, already has a devolution deal in place, it contains fewer powers and funding than the mayoral devlution deals that have been done elsewhere as leaders originally refused to adopt an elected mayor. Attempts to secure a wider-ranging deal have since stagnated due in part to interference from Conservative MPs concerned about the prospect of a Labour mayor overseeing the Leeds City Region/West Yorkshire area which has led to local leaders attempting to secure a Yorkshire-wide deal instead. 

However, communities secretary Sajid Javid has rejected proposals for both a Yorkshire-wide devolution deal as well as one based on the current Leeds City Region footprint.

In addition to a devolution deal, the combined authority’s leaders want “an urgent funding extension to secure the future of programmes put in place” by the city deal as funding is due “terminate” in 2018-19.

“This would amount to a huge cut in business support, skills training and sector development work and would greatly undermine the region’s potential at exactly the moment we should be establishing the vision of a successful economy that works for all,” the letter said. “Such funding should come with flexibility so the priorities that local business and civic leaders identify as being most important in driving inclusive growth can be addressed.”

The leaders also want the government to “reaffirm its commitment to Transport for the North and the further investment in transport across the north”.

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