Why inequality in Leeds must be top priority for first West Yorkshire Mayor - Laura Collins
It is a deal that has been years in the making with the promise of millions of pounds of funding to be spent on the things that matter to the people here in West Yorkshire.
And yesterday saw the appointment of the first West Yorkshire Mayor who will represent 2.5million residents in the region.
Bringing together Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Calderdale and Kirklees this new role will see decisions made about key investments such as transport, skills, housing and regeneration taken away from the seats of Whitehall and power transferred locally as part of the so-called “levelling up” agenda.
We’ve heard so much chatter since the General Election of 2019 about what must be done to help close the gap between the North and South that it’s almost in danger of becoming background noise.
And the devastating impact of the pandemic over the last year has certainly highlighted the stark inequalities in society.
And West Yorkshire has particularly felt the impact of repeated lockdowns and life under tough restrictions hard. It has impacted all aspects of our lives - from health outcomes right through to business, employment and education.
Therefore it’s vital the new Mayor looks at getting a grip on inequality once and for all. We know there is no silver bullet to this.
But among those who have been hit especially hard are our most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and they have to be a priority. Our young people have really borne the brunt as they have been forced away from their classrooms and made to study from home.
Our children must have the best start to life to help improve their outcomes so education and skills must be a priority.
In turn so many people have been impacted by the economic uncertainty of Covid - we’ve seen businesses close their doors as they have struggled to keep their heads above water.
Staff have lost their jobs while others have been placed on furlough wondering what the future will hold for them.
Training has to be front of centre of helping great cities like Leeds build back stronger.
And readers will know not to get me started on connectivity and the physical challenge of getting from one side of the city to another.
It has to bounce back and its success in turn then supports surrounding cities and towns as success radiates across the county.
Now is the time to start taking some swift action to help our county build back from this crisis.