Responding to news that a Cities Devolution Bill will be in the Queen's Speech later this month, WYCA Chair Cllr Peter Box today said:
“With 95% of decisions that affect our citizens being taken outside our local areas, the case for devolution is unarguable.
“We are confident that by securing a comprehensive devolution deal, we can do better than Whitehall, growing our economy and addressing the issues of productivity facing the UK economy. The Chancellor has now made clear that greater levels of devolution in England are directly linked to a change in governance.
“We were clear in the last Parliament that in the light of people having strongly rejected elected mayors in recent referenda in Bradford, Kirklees and Wakefield, we did not believe this was the model for West Yorkshire and York.
“However, the Chancellor has now made his position clear and we need to consult the local people, businesses and stakeholders of West Yorkshire and York on the governance options that could unlock extra powers and resources from Whitehall. We will be asking government to let us have details of what extra powers and resources could be made available to us in return for a change of governance."
Announcing the Bill, Chancellor George Osborne is expected to say that the existing model, which sees decisions on West Yorkshire and the Leeds City region, taken in London is ‘broken’ and has resulted in an unbalanced economy.
In an article in the Yorkshire Post (new window), outgoing Leeds Council leader said it was clear the Chancellor has picked his preferred method of devolution.
“We must now reopen the debate in Leeds and the North on wether we want a metro mayor,” he said.
“We thought we had answered this conclusively with a referendum on an elected mayor in 2012, but now we are back to looking at it again.
We need to know what is on offered from government, but equally we are going to have to speak to the people and businesses in Leeds and see if they have changed their minds. It is time to have that debate again.”
Cllr Wakefield was among UK Core Cities group leaders who last week in an open letter to national politicians last week, urged the Government to enter a dialogue with them about rebalancing and growing the economy to create more jobs and eliminate the deficit.
The letter quotes an independent forecast which shows that ‘greater freedoms the eight English core cities alone could deliver an additional £222bn and 1.16 million jobs into the economy by 2030’.
The letter ends, ‘The choice for devolution is a choice about what kind of country we want. One that remains amongst the most centralised in the world, holding back its economic powerhouses, undermining civil society and placing little faith in anyone outside Government? Or one that seeks to build a stronger sense of shared endeavour, with all its economic centres freed to contribute, local people trusted to make the right choices, and a sustainable future for services that support quality of life, place and prosperity.
‘We choose the latter and urge you to show the shared leadership this country needs to deliver that future.’
Download the letter from the Core Cities website (opens in new window).