Two senior West Yorkshire councillors charged with improving connectivity spoke to businesses in Bradford recently.
Bradford Property Forum members met with West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) representatives Peter Box and James Lewis to discuss devolution and transport. The Bradford College-sponsored event was attended by almost 50 local firms from the property sector.
Cllr Box, Chair of WYCA and Leader of Wakefield Council, said that greater partnership working and a move away from parochialism was helping businesses and other communities. Cllr James Lewis, who chairs the WYCA’s transport committee, added that the £1bn fund agreed by the five West Yorkshire local authorities plus York, will significantly improve transport links and connectivity for businesses and others across the region.
While a ‘devo-deal’ has still not been reached between the local authorities and central government, it is now hoped that negotiations will be concluded by March. It is believed that the issue of elected mayors is one of the main sticking points on reaching an agreement on what specific powers and responsibilities will be devolved from Westminster and Whitehall. Cllr Box told the Forum that most of the West Yorkshire local authorities had already had their own referenda on the issue and voters all rejected the proposal for a Boris Johnson-style figurehead.
Senior Bradford councillor, Val Slater, confirmed that, for devolution to work in West Yorkshire, the focus should be on transport and housing. Policy issues do not stop at council boundaries, she said, and so closer co-operation across West Yorkshire, plus the devolved powers due by the Budget according to the Government, would drive greater economic growth.
All councillors present agreed that, while all dialogue around this issue is being referred to as devolution, what is actually meant is decentralisation.
The Forum, run by Bradford Chamber of Commerce, saw new chairman Steve McManus of Chartback Developments, take over from Pinsent Mason’s Jonathan Riley, who has led the group for the last two years. The event also saw Chamber President Paul Mackie back in action, who has recently been recovering from treatment for prostate cancer.