Wetherby councillors have their say on Leeds devolution

Leeds Civic Hall.
Leeds Civic Hall.

As more and more people across the UK take up the call for ‘English votes for English laws’, Wetherby’s councillors are having their say on the pros and cons of devolution.

The Wetherby News revealed that devolved powers could be in the pipeline for the Leeds region, as Leeds City Council (LCC) submitted an ‘ambitious’ bid for more autonomy earlier this month.

A topic widely debated since the referendum on Scottish independence, these freedoms could include the economy, transport, housing, skills, and some public services, according to LCC leader Coun Keith Wakefield (Lab).

Now, Wetherby councillors John Procter (Con) and Alan Lamb (Con) are speaking out about the application and what it could mean.

Coun Procter said: “It is an exciting time for local government in the Leeds city region.

“The government has recognised the economic potential this region offers, and is taking concrete steps to ensure we have the powers we need to take decisions close to home that are in our own best interests.

“The economic dominance of London and the south east is unhealthy for the UK’s long-term economic health, but the devolution of powers should help us to attract businesses and investment that will unlock the North’s economic potential.”

The possibility of power on a local level acknowledges the potential contribution of cities and regions like Leeds.

And, as the strongest economic unit outside of London with £56bn gross value added (GVA) - the individual contribution to the UK economy - Leeds has a lot to contribute.

These discussions, however, are set against the backdrop of LCC’s budget being cut by £470m since 2010 in government austerity measures, and a further £46.7m reduction to be met by 2017, meaning grant funding has been cut by more than 45 per cent.

Coun Lamb said: “The referendum in Scotland has put devolution right at the top of the political agenda, and this sits well with the local enterprise partnerships the government has established to boost enterprise in our region.

“The government earlier this year authorised the Leeds city deal, which means more than £900m will flow into the region, creating jobs and improving the transport infrastructure.

“This is a good start, but more devolution will only boost the allure of Leeds and its surrounding towns and cities in encouraging businesses and industries to locate here. I’ve always believed that decisions should be taken as close to the people they affect as possible.”