Responding to a report that Theresa May plans to abandon George Osborne’s policy of directly elected mayors for city regions, West Yorkshire Combined Authority Chair Cllr Peter Box said, “I am pleased to see that the Prime Minister has recognised that George Osborne’s insistence on directly elected mayors for city regions has been an unnecessary distraction from the important devolution process crucial to generating economic growth new jobs and improved infrastructure for our city region.
“As West Yorkshire leaders, we agreed to accept the creation of an elected mayor, which seemed to be a ‘red line’ for the Government, because we believed the benefits to people across the City Region far outweighed our concerns about governance.
“Our proposals set out the first step in a journey to devolved economic control and public service reform for our region in return for a Cabinet system and Assembly, with checks and balances in place.
“Last week Theresa May confirmed that Yorkshire is a key part of the government’s vision for a Northern Powerhouse and her commitments to transport improvements, backing for entrepreneurs and innovators and funding for start-ups.
“Today’s suggestion that her government is going to work with us constructively to achieve that through meaningful devolution without the distraction of creating new tiers of governance in the shape of elected mayors is welcome news and I look forward to re-joining negotiations with her ministers soon.”
Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) said: “This change of emphasis should mean we can progress quickly towards a transformational devolution deal for the Leeds City Region deal that builds on our existing Growth Deal and other devolved investment we’ve secured and enables us to achieve the ambitious 20-year programme set out in our Strategic Economic Plan.
“We are already on target for adding billions of pounds to the region’s economy and creating thousands of new jobs. Real devolution of further powers and funding to our city-region will mean everyone who lives and works here can feel the benefits of a strong and successful economy and our City Region can become an overall contributor to UK growth.”
Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council said: “In Leeds we have always felt very strongly that the governance model for devolution should be determined locally. Elected mayors have at times been a distraction that has acted in some ways as a block on the meaningful devolution we so desperately need. They were a non-negotiable part of the previous government’s offer, so I’m pleased to see a more flexible approach is being suggested.
“The benefits of devolution have been widely accepted for some time now – it would create jobs and economic growth for people living and working in the Leeds City Region. We remain keen to work with our partners across the region to make those benefits a reality.”