Leeds City Council leader backs plea for £200m and devolved powers

Coun Judith Blake
Coun Judith Blake
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LEEDS CITY Council leader Coun Judith Blake has welcomed West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s ambitious bid for more than £200m of government investment along with devolved powers for Yorkshire in November’s Autumn Budget.

The combined authority is seeking a cash injection from the budget to create new jobs and business opportunities across Leeds City Region.

Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, West Yorkshire Combined Authority chair, said: “Achieving our region’s full potential over the longer term means creating a strong, successful economy that generates new sources of wealth and opportunity for everyone as well as making our full contribution to the UK economy.

“With an economy that’s already bigger than Wales and 11 EU countries, that potential is huge.

“However, realising this requires decisions on policy and investment to be made by people who are dedicated to our region and who have the local expertise required, so I hope the Government will match our ambition for the meaningful devolution that will make this possible.

“Only by taking decisions and allocating resources at the right level, as set out in the devolution proposals contained in our Autumn Budget submission, will we be able to turbo-charge our economy and ensure our region plays its full part as a Powerhouse, not just for the North but for the whole of the country.”

Leeds City Council leader, Coun Judith Blake said: “We are hugely ambitious for Leeds, the Leeds City Region and the North.

“To meet those ambitions, central Government should empower local areas through devolved powers and investment to bring about the housing, transport and business improvements that are desperately needed.

“Leeds already makes a significant contribution to driving forward the UK economy, but if we are empowered to do more, we can deliver the improvements needed to ensure future economic growth is both inclusive and to the benefit

The bid includes a request for investment in the region’s fast growing MedTech sector – dubbed world-leading at a recent global health innovation conference in San Francisco.

The combined authority also wants to create a new High-Speed Rail Institute building on the region’s significant research capabilities in the rail industry.

The bid’s proposed £100m Leeds City Region Housing Deal will increase the rate of house-building in the region and create more, better quality, affordable housing in response to local demand.

Meanwhile, a proposed £40m local energy fund will reduce the cost of domestic and businesses energy bills through investment in new, low carbon locally generated energy.

Recent calls by city region politicians and business leaders for the Government to honour previous promises around transport investment are also contained in the bid, including seeking Government backing for the City Region’s HS2 Growth Strategy, due to be submitted later this month.

It also asks ministers to renew commitments made to northern regions during the General Election campaign, including upgrades to the trans-Pennine rail route connecting York, Leeds and Huddersfield with Manchester and Liverpool, and the delivery of the high-speed Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme with stops in York, Leeds and Bradford.

In addition to the ambitious calls for investment in specific projects, the submission also emphasises the importance of a devolution deal that will deliver Yorkshire and Leeds City Region’s full economic potential.

The combined authority’s submission also includes immediate priorities, such as the Leeds City Region HS2 Growth Strategy and continuation of key economic services such as the LEP Growth Service, which is supporting 2,500 businesses a year and attracting £28m of private investment.

Gerald Jennings, chair, of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Business across our region would support the requests included in this submission; the need for improved transport infrastructure and access to a skilled workforce are regularly cited as barriers to growing their businesses.

“The need for more housing is also very important if we are to meet the ambitions for growth set out in the various economic strategies being developed and implemented across the region.

“On this latter note we would appeal to government for joined up thinking however, following the recent Department for Communities and Local Government strategy, ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’ in which the proposed new way of calculating housing need would significantly reduce the numbers of dwellings being built in our region.”

Paula Dillon, President of Leeds Chamber Commerce.

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