More power in Leeds could boost north

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SHIFTING major powers from Whitehall to Yorkshire will strengthen the whole of the North so it can compete in the global economy, according to Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese.

Sir Richard dismissed suggestions that the landmark devolution deal struck by Greater Manchester last year had triggered a new era of transpennine competition and argued it was in his city’s interests to see Yorkshire follow suit.

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Greater Manchester’s ten councils agreed last year to create an elected mayor in return for sweeping powers in areas such as transport, planning, fire, police and housing investment.

The city has also agreed with the Government to take control of a single £6 billion health and social care budget. The latest in The Yorkshire Post’s Big Debate series is looking at how the region should respond to Chancellor George Osborne’s offer to reach similar agreements with other areas that agree to have mayors.

He confirmed in the Summer Budget that discussions are underway with two groups of Yorkshire councils - based around Sheffield and Leeds and their neighbours - but others argue there should be a single regional deal with one elected mayor.

Sir Richard told the YEP: “It is very much in Manchester’s interest for other places to catch up. The fact that Leeds City Region, Sheffield City Region are in serious discussions with Government is a very good thing and I hope they are going to be successful discussions because actually from our point of view having a powerful Leeds City Region and a powerful Sheffield City Region is good news not bad news.

“It is a win-win game. We are not in the business of being in competition with Leeds and Sheffield, what we are in the business of is northern cities being in a better position to compete in a global economy.”