Northern leaders urge Chancellor to use Budget to address key issues in Leeds

Northern leaders are urging the Chancellor to use his Budget on Wednesday to address key issues in Leeds and boost opportunities for people and businesses in and around the city.

Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 11:45 am
Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council

One major issue which unites those in charge is transport - with many calling for Rishi Sunak MP to allocate funding for vital infrastructure projects.

Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake said: "The least we expect is for the Chancellor to use his first budget to show the Government is serious about levelling up the country and to give Leeds a devolution deal and funding for a mass transit system."

Members of Transport for the North have written to the Chancellor asking for commitment to build the Northern Powerhouse Rail network by 2040 - to transform connectivity between major cities in the north.

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The Budget will be delivered on Wednesday March 11. Picture: PA

Its chief executive Barry White called for a pot of cash to be set aside for the north, saying: "We believe we’re on the path to devolution, and that by setting out a dedicated Northern Budget the Chancellor can empower the North to make the most of our ambitions.”

Their view was echoed by the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce which argued "investment in infrastructure" is important and urged no delays to HS2 or the Northern Powerhouse Rail project.

They also called for a review of the business rates system, support to help companies navigate trade outside the EU, no new business taxes or regulation, and to reinstate funding from the apprenticeship budget and support other accredited training as well.

For Leeds, Judith Blake also reiterated her demand for the city to receive the £22.5m shortfall needed to build the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme phase two, to prevent a repeat of the 2015 Boxing Day floods.

She also added: "Leeds also desperately needs to see increased funding for front line council services, especially adults and children’s social care, as well as additional funding for education and social housing.”

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves called on the Government to "put its money where its mouth is" and level up the economy of the North.

She said: "We have been waiting for a decade for long overdue investment in infrastructure like flood defences in Leeds and improvements to our creaking transport system.

"The Government has already broken its promise to scrap outdated pace trains by the end of February.

"It's vital that the Government doesn't use the coronavirus as an excuse for yet more inaction.

"Ministers have to get on with ending the inequalities between North and South. We've heard the talk for years, now we need to see the money to overhaul our overstretched public services.

"When the Chancellor delivers his Budget we will find out if the Government is prepared to put its money where its mouth is and get on with levelling up the economy of Yorkshire and the North."