A landmark deal to give council bosses unprecedented control over new transport projects and skills training has been formally signed off with the Government.
Leeds City Region agreed its so-called “City Deal” package with Ministers earlier in the summer, and civic leaders travelled to Westminster yesterday to sign off the historic package.
It means the 11 councils across the area will work more closely together and be able to combine funding pots to create vast transport and infrastructure kitties for new projects.
They also hope to overhaul skills training across the city region and tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.
Councillor Peter Box, leader of Wakefield Council and chairman of the Leeds City Region, said: “The best way for regions to develop and grow is to give local people in these areas more control and the decision-making ability to make a real difference.”
The deal was signed off as it was announced that councils and business leaders across the land will be handed new powers over spending on new local transport projects under a major shake-up outlined by the Government.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said local transport bodies are set to be established in each of the country’s 39 local enterprise partnership (LEP) areas to decide on new road, rail and bus schemes in years to come.
The decision marks the end of years of West Yorkshire transport bosses being forced to go cap-in-hand to Whitehall to request funding for new road upgrades or other significant transport projects.
Under the new funding system, local transport bodies will be formed over the coming months in each of the LEP areas, made up of representatives from LEP boards as well as local councils and transport authorities.
They will be handed funding from Whitehall on a per capita basis, and asked to draw up lists of local schemes on which they would like the cash to be spent.
Mr Baker said: “We want to ensure decisions on new transport infrastructure are made at a more local level.
“LEPs are well placed to understand how transport investment can be used to boost economic growth and that is why we want them, working with local authorities, to have a key role.”
Labour said it welcomed the devolution plan but that the business-led LEPs were the wrong bodies to take control.
A spokeswoman said councils should be handed the power instead of “unelected LEPs”.