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Devolution talks ahead of bidding deadline

Devolution talks ahead of bidding deadline

Published at 5:16pm 2nd September 2015. (Updated at 5:30pm 2nd September 2015)

West Yorkshire's council leaders are hoping for a devolution deal which will cover the Leeds City Region.

They argue that its geography is the right 'footprint' for more local decision-making, based on how businesses operate and how people travel to work.

The economic area, which includes the Harrogate and Craven districts, represents the UK's largest city region economy outside London.

It generates £57.7 billion of economic output and has a population of 2.8 million people.

Council leaders say their preferred devolution deal would build on more than a decade of collaboration and partnership between local councils and businesses, which is already creating significant growth and jobs.

In their devolution bid, they will focus on areas such as transport, housing, business support, skills and new powers to generate investment for major infrastructure projects.

The leaders recognise that pursuing a Leeds City Region deal brings administrative challenges, but they say that the scale of economic growth offered by devolution shouldn't be constrained by existing administrative boundaries.

They're also pointing out that over 50,000 people commute between the areas of Craven, Harrogate, Selby, York and West Yorkshire, and that there is a need to recognise these economic links if the Northern Powerhouse is going to become reality.

They have held talks with the Treasury Minister and leaders of the City of York and North Yorkshire districts within the Leeds City Region to confirm that a bid would be submitted.

Councillor Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: "Today we had a constructive meeting with leaders of neighbouring councils and Lord O'Neill ahead of us submitting to Government an ambitious devolution proposal that will mean better infrastructure, jobs and housing."

In exchange for the devolution of powers from Westminster, the Government will insist on the introduction of an elected 'Metro Mayor'.

People in Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield voted against Mayors in 2012, but the council leaders have agreed that the potential benefits are now so great that they have a duty to give it serious consideration.

However, they're making it clear that they "won't stand" for the Government using devolution to impose a Mayor whilst keeping the real power in Whitehall or simply devolving the task and responsibility for implementing austerity measures.

Their devolution proposal will be submitted to the Government this week.