The district is poised to grab more powers over economic investment and transport, after a new ‘super authority’ was agreed.
MPs yesterday approved the creation of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority – clearing the way for a devolution package to be accelerated.
Among the plans drawn up as part of a ‘City Deal’ with ministers are: l
- a £1bn fund to improve public transport and roads – with the potential, local leaders believe, to create 20,000 jobs.
- a £400m fund 'economic investment’ to strengthen infrastructure.
- the creation of an ‘apprenticeship network’ to provide 15,000 new apprenticeships over the next four years.
- initiatives to increase overseas trade and inward investment, with the aim of attracting 7,400 jobs by 2018.
- ultra-fast broadband for 88,000 homes, and more than 16,000 businesses, across the city-region, by 2015.
The combined authority will consist of the leaders of all five West Yorkshire councils – Bradford, Leeds, Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield.
All the authorities agreed it would provide the area with a stronger, united voice, with Bradford the first to approve the plans as long ago as last July.
David Green, Bradford’s Labour leader, has said he hopes the move will also allow the city to push forward its key projects, for job creation (£7.7m) and the city centre growth zone (£35m).
He said, last year: “We are clear about our ambition for the whole of the Bradford district to benefit from the combined authority.
“We will also remain vocal in our own right and continue to push Government for support for the district which is outside the City Deal and combined authority.”
The business-led Leeds City Region local enterprise partnership will be an associate member of the combined authority, as will York City Council.
And the new body will take over Metro’s responsibility as the local transport authority.
The Government pushed for combined authorities in all the large metropolitan areas, in order for large-scale devolution to follow.
Brandon Lewis, the local government minister, said: “This will increase investment and promote, more strongly and effectively, economic prosperity in these areas.”
Ministers are impressed by the success of the arrangement in Greater Manchester, which has long been viewed as the best-run of England’s big cities.
Greater Manchester was rewarded with a groundbreaking ‘earn back’ deal – to keep some of the extra tax revenues from growth – but no other area has yet asked for a similar carrot.