Deputy PM in ‘home rule’ offer to Leeds

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
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LEEDS and its West Yorkshire neighbours could secure sweeping powers over transport, housing and skills from Whitehall before Christmas.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced yesterday he wants the Leeds City Region to be next in line for a major shift of decision-making powers and Government budgets from London.

Greater Manchester was the first English city to agree such a deal on Monday which included the creation of a new directly-elected mayor for the city, an idea championed by Chancellor George Osborne.

Yorkshire council leaders have been sceptical about the elected mayor idea and were concerned the Government would make that the price of devolution.

But yesterday Mr Clegg promised that would not be a condition and went further, suggesting the headlines of a devolution deal could be in place in time for the Autumn Statement in early December.

He said: “I have always been very very clear that I don’t want and I will not allow as Deputy Prime Minister for any part of Whitehall to impose a strait jacket on how areas decide to govern themselves.

“It is not for Whitehall to start pointing a big long finger and dictating to areas how they govern themselves. I think it is important that as powers are devolved to local areas those powers are administered efficiently and accountably.”

Mr Clegg is also believed to have offered reassurances 
that Yorkshire devolution will not be a watered-down version of that agreed with Manchester because of the reluctance on mayors.

Coun Peter Box, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “We have shown at a local level we can deliver. And to be optimistic if we get further power and further devolution we will make a big difference.”

Coun Box and Leeds Council leader Keith Wakefield 
both stressed that while they welcomed strides towards 
devolution, councils continue 
to wrestle with major budget cuts.

“The continued austerity measures and the severe cuts to funding cities like Leeds have taken are putting people into real hardship, so this announcement needs to be the start of much more significant changes in order to make a real difference,” Coun Wakefield said.

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