IT’s been a tough political year all round , but Leeds’s most senior councillor is certainly ready to get back in the saddle.
After Labour’s resounding success in the local elections - which allowed the party to keep its huge majority in the Leeds council chamber - Coun Keith Wakefield has this week been re-elected to be leader of the council.
He acknowledged that despite the “great” election result, “a lot of important lessons” had also been learnt.
He said the council’s immediate priorities next year would be on building more houses - and “encouraging active citizenship”.
“We need to provide more jobs to take the city to another level,” he told the YEP. “We are moving up the league as one of the top retail cities in the UK. However we have got to do a lot more in terms of our communities and employment.”
He said the South Bank and Kirkstall Forge developments would be a “massive boost”, as would the ongoing East Leeds extension and Victoria Gate plans. “Overall we have something like 30,000 new jobs to look forward to and they are all within reach of communities,” he said. “That is great news for the city, but we have still got a lot of work to do.”
Speaking to the YEP less than a month from the Tour de France Grand Depart, Coun Wakefield acknowledged that “the legacy has to go to children”, but added the city could reap huge economic and other social rewards.
“We are working with schools and developing safer cycling, because that’s the big challenge,” he said.
“Cycling has become like a virus in the city - which is great and inspiring to see.
“Eventually we want to be able to cycle into work and so on. And when we get that right, we’ll have really made the breakthrough ,
“These are the kind of legacies we need, but we shouldn’t forget, this is the greatest opportunity that Leeds and Yorkshire will have to promote itself.”
He said the event would also be a major factor in reversing some “distorted perceptions” of the city and the region.
“People think cloth caps and whippets and so on,” he said. “But we have got a very dynamic city. If you are someone with money to invest, I think you would be very interested in Leeds.”
DIGITAL IS THE WORD, AS NEW LEEDS COUNCIL CABINET LINE-UP IS ANNOUNCED
LEEDS city council has created a new ‘digital technologies’ cabinet role as it aims to bring local politics into the 21st century.
However the expansion of Lucinda Yeadon’s culture and skills portfolio to embrace the digital age was one of only a few changes at the top as the new cabinet line-up was announced at this week’s annual meeting.
Councillor Keith Wakefield was reconfirmed as leader of the council, along with deputy leaders councillors Judith Blake and Peter Gruen.
All existing executive members have been re-appointed, but with some amendments to the portfolio areas to reflect the administration’s priorities for the coming years.
The Development and Economy portfolio held by Coun Richard Lewis has been re-named Transport and Economy, and Coun Mark Dobson’s environmental brief has been re-branded to Cleaner, Stronger and Safer Communities.
Coun Wakefield said: “It is vital that we have a strong team who are committed to doing everything we can to support and protect the people who are in most need of our help.”
The new portfolio areas and holders are:
Finance and inequality - Coun Keith Wakefield
Children and families - Coun Judith Blake
Neighbourhoods, planning and personnel - Coun Peter Gruen
Digital and creative technologies, culture and skills - Coun Lucinda Yeadon
Health and well-being - Coun Lisa Mulherin
Cleaner, stronger and safer communities - Coun Mark Dobson
Adult social care - Coun Adam Ogilvie
Transport and economy - Coun Richard Lewis.