West Yorkshire devolution: ‘Leeds must not be dragged down by failures of others’, says senior Tory

A senior Leeds councillor has warned that Leeds must not be “dragged down by others” in a forthcoming West Yorkshire mayoral deal.
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The comments came as Leeds officially rubber-stamped its support for a devolution deal which is expected to see a directly elected West Yorkshire mayor in place next May.

According to the plans, which were approved at a full Leeds City Council meeting, a new mayoral region would include Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, Wakefield and Calderdale.

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But some warned that Leeds needed to have a strong voice in the mayoral authority, such is its economic importance to the region.

Coun Andrew Carter has warned that Leeds should be in the driving seat in a mayoral authority.Coun Andrew Carter has warned that Leeds should be in the driving seat in a mayoral authority.
Coun Andrew Carter has warned that Leeds should be in the driving seat in a mayoral authority.

Leader of Leeds City Council’s Conservatives group Andrew Carter said: “It’s been a long time coming, but it’s very welcome.

“Leeds is the capital of the region – it is the economic driving force and we have had the news we are in tier three. We should not be surprised in Leeds and I hope at some stage we will get input and briefing on how our partners are tackling Covid cases in their area.

“Leeds cannot be dragged down by the failures of others – that cuts across a number of issues in devolution. I hope we are not going to have a dog in the manger attitude when it comes to working together on this virus.

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“This deal, whatever its shortcomings and whatever whinging we hear is very positive.”

Garforth and Swillington Independents group leader Coun Mark Dobson added: “If current events have taught us anything, it’s that we must not be dragged into other cities’ issues. We need that degree of autonomy to steer our destiny around important events.

“When we look at this deal objectively, it’s been the skeleton of a deal that has been knocking around for a few years. As a city we have put ourselves in the slow lane.

“When you look at a city the size and scope of Leeds, with a massive economic footprint, where is the experience and desire, and who is going into bat for Leeds?”

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The deal will see more than £30m of extra regional spending each year, as well as more powers delegated from central government. Should it be ratified by all West Yorkshire councils, it is set to go before Westminster decision-makers next month.

While Green Party and Garforth councillors abstained from the vote, The Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems and Morley councillors all voted in favour of the deal.

Morley Borough Independents group leader Coun Robert Finnigan said the deal was “the best we could get out of the government at this particular point”, adding: “We believe decision-making should be delegated down to its most local level.”

Supporting the plans, Liberal Democrats group leader Coun Stewart Golton said: “This should be celebratory, but I feel the mood has gone from that, because excitement developed for the potential for different regions in the country to make decisions for themselves seems to have been lost over the years.”

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Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: “We will continue to campaign for real and genuine devolution. I don’t believe in England we have anywhere near the model that we need for real devolution – but this is the game in town.

“To be at the forefront, getting the money that is on the table, moving forward on the mayoral footprint is what we have had to do.

“I feel a sense of dismay at the negative comments we have heard today – let’s be positive. Let’s approach this with a sense that we have an opportunity to get control of the resource and powers we need.

“For goodness sake, let’s pull together and stop carping from the sidelines, move on with the deal, get the mayor elected and, we hope, have a Labour mayor in place doing right by our communities.”