getting people off benefits and into work, and building a transport network the city can be truly proud of, are the key priorities for Leeds as the city prepares to shout load at Whitehall for its share of a new £2bn infrastructure funding pot.
The YEP reported on Thursday that a rallying call had gone out ahead of the March deadline for the latest round of grants from the Government’s Local Growth Fund, part of its flagship proposals for regional devolution.
Leeds has already secured some devolution of powers through last year’s City Deal. This included some funding for transport and apprenticeships which will kick in in April 2014. However, until recently, the Leeds City Region LEP - a local economic partnership of 10 councils which is driving the latest bidding - has not had big funds to play with.
The new Local Growth Fund will operate from April 2015. The council says it is “working hard” to build a solid case, and is involving the private sector, MPs and the wider community in order to have “the broadest possible support when we are arguing for investment in our economy and our people next year”.
Asked for the council’s wishlist of targets for Leeds’s hoped-for £100m-plus share of cash, Leeds city council leader Coun Keith Wakefield said investment in “key areas” such as transport, jobs and skills training was vital.
“A key priority for Leeds is to secure a step-change in our approach to getting people off welfare and into work,” he told the YEP. “The level of investment the LEP can attract will enable us to deliver thousands of jobs and apprenticeships, along with much needed improvements to transport links and more affordable homes. We want to see more devolvement of powers from Whitehall to allow us to apply our local knowledge to grow our economy.”
Last week, senior councillors urged the council to remember Leeds’s inner city areas, its many dormant brownfield sites and other areas that are “crying out for investment” when putting together the bid, and not just concentrate on bigger aspirational schemes like the East Leeds Extension.
Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region LEP, had earlier told the council’s internal housing and regeneration watchdog that the bid would be “challenging”, but he added: “It should be possible to do all the major projects as long as we prioritise the right ones.”