West Yorkshire ‘on a sliding scale of failure’ with devolution consultation, claims senior councillor
Opposition members of Leeds City Council have warned that people in West Yorkshire are “not sure” when it comes to the possibility of a new metro mayor, set to be elected next spring.
A devolution deal struck in March this year would see an elected mayor covering the county’s five local authority areas, including Leeds, in exchange for extra powers around transport and infrastructure, and a further £38m a year in spending.
A special full council meeting heard how, despite the effects of Covid-19, the consultation had got more responses from the public than any other mayoral consultation in the country.
But the leader of Leeds City Council’s Conservatives group, as well as others, argued that just over 4,000 consultees out of a population of two million was a “failure”, claiming this showed more needed to be done to convince people of the scheme.
Coun Andrew Carter said: “For West Yorkshire to say 4,000 responses out of a population of two million is a success stretches credibility to its absolute limits.
“To say its the best consultation of all the devolved authorities merely means we are higher up the sliding scale of failure than they are.
“I accept we have consulted in a difficult time, but the message is clear – the general public, for whatever reason, are not sure. It is therefore beholden upon all of us that that is the case. There has been no ringing endorsement for this deal.
“We had a referendum on a mayor for Leeds (in 2012) – the vote was 64 per cent against. We have a credibility gap to bridge, and we owe it to our citizens.”
Coun Mark Dobson (Ind) added: “I would not call 4,000 people a success.
“The biggest consultation was a ‘no’ vote in 2012. There are some positives – £38m is not to be sniffed at – but the Leeds City Region would have been preferable.
“This is another step in the process, not the end of the process. It does not mean the deal will be fully embraced by our party.”
Speaking earlier in the meeting, Coun Judith Blake had said: “It has enabled us to move forward with the timetable as originally proposed. We have not been able to do the consultation in the normal way we would have done.
“In spite of the restrictions we have been under, the West Yorkshire consultation has achieved the highest number of responses of all the consultations that have taken place.”
It is hoped that, should Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield councils agree to the terms of the deal, a new mayor for the region can be elected in summer 2021. The mayor would serve for a three-year term before another mayoral election was held.