Life in Politics column by Coun Judith Blake: Working together for common goal

A few weeks ago I had one of the more unusual moments in my time as a councillor.

Tuesday, 5th December 2017, 3:27 pm
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 9:44 pm
041017 Emma Howard Boyd Chairman of the Environment Agency (left) and Cllr Judith Blake L, eader of Leeds City Council who jointly opened of the first phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation scheme near to the Royal Armouries, yesterday(wed).

Opening new facilities is one of the most rewarding aspects of my role as a council leader, but I had never cut the ribbon to open a weir before.

This is not just any weir, it is a moveable weir, a piece of state-of-the-art technology forming part of a much broader £50 million flood alleviation scheme to give greater protection to our city.

This scheme will improve protection for 3,000 homes and 500 businesses. It will also make land more attractive for development, bringing jobs and growth to the city.

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Walk around the city centre and you will see other work still ongoing to reduce the risk of the Aire bursting its banks.

We are approaching the second anniversary of the devastating floods which saw large parts of Leeds submerged with a devastating impact on families and businesses.

I doubt any of us who witnessed the aftermath will ever forget what we saw.

My sadness at the damage I witnessed two years ago quickly turned to anger that the investment in flood defences, for which the city had long argued, had not been made; and to determination that I would do all I could to make sure there was no repetition.

Leeds was not alone in the damage cause by the Boxing Day 2015 floods. Across West Yorkshire similar scenes were repeated and it is by working with our neighbours through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority that we have analysed the impact of those events and formed plans to make us collectively more resilient.

Flooding is a good example of where different areas need to work together to achieve a common goal. Action taken on one part of the river network will inevitably have consequences further downstream.

By joining forces we also have a louder voice when it comes to making the case to the Government for additional investment.

That is why the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, on which I sit with my fellow council leaders, has proved so important in the response of Leeds and its neighbours to the Boxing Day floods. Indeed, the Combined Authority was one of the bodies which put funding forward to help ensure the Leeds flood alleviation scheme I officially opened a few weeks ago went ahead.

Flooding is just one part of the Combined Authority’s work. We are delivering improved college facilities, including supporting the £13m Leeds College of Building campus on the South Bank.

The Combined Authority’s transport plans have been pivotal in the building of the Leeds Station south entrance and the new station at Kirkstall Forge.

Its work to improve the energy efficiency of homes is helping Leeds families out of fuel poverty.

The Combined Authority is helping new businesses start and existing ones grow.

We might enjoy sporting rivalries with our West Yorkshire neighbours but by pooling our strength we can achieve far more than we can on our own.

In an increasingly global economy, it is by working together as a region and pooling our strengths that we will succeed.

Coun Judith Blake is Leeds City Council leader and member of West Yorkshire Combined Authority.