Devolution debate: Help our Leeds ‘turbo charge’ its destiny

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Leeds can “turbo-charge” its way into the “Champions League” of global city economies, a new report calling for stronger regional powers for Yorkshire says.

And it could be doing it with an elected Mayor as its regional figurehead.

That’s the view of a coalition of Yorkshire council leaders who are making a renewed bid to win devolved powers from the Government. Speaking today, Yorkshire Day, the so-called “coalition of the willing” – 17 of whom met at a landmark summit chaired by Leeds Council leader Judith Blake last week – confirmed that any deal will include agreeing to an elected Mayor “in the first instance” based on the Government’s requirements, although the specifics are “yet to be determined”.

In a joint statement, the leaders added: “Today is Yorkshire Day and therefore it seems right to talk today about our county, its ambitions and our identity. The county is big enough and bold enough to want to carve out its own destiny. It is a happy Yorkshire Day across the whole of this great and historic county – a county with the potential for as great a future as a past.”

The leaders have agreed unanimously to work towards securing “a single ambitious devolution deal for the Yorkshire authorities and areas wanting to work together on this basis”.

A report laying out the initial blueprint for a new regional devolution deal pitches Leeds at the economic centre of a wider region seamlessly connected by a rejuvenated land, air and sea infrastructure, and by the unique strengths of its individual component parts which form part of Brand Yorkshire.

“Turbo-charging the strengths of Leeds in digital technology and healthcare, added to its financial and retail sectors, would establish it in the ‘Champions League’ of service-based city economies ready for a successful bid for the 2023 European Capital of Culture,” the report says.

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said earlier that previous efforts at a deal had “stalled” because of “the geography of devolution”. But he stressed: “I am hopeful that we will get a deal and reap the rewards in the future.”