AN historic agreement to deliver dramatic new powers to the district - in return for a ‘metro mayor’ - appeared to be in trouble last night.

Hopes were fading that George Osborne will announce a devolution deal for West Yorkshire in today’s autumn statement, as talks went down to the wire.

A source close to the talks said council leaders expected to be "underwhelmed" by the statement, with "meat on the bones" now not expected until early next year.

The stumbling block is the Chancellor’s demand that most powers can only be transferred if the leaders sign up to a single, directly-elected mayor for the entire district.

The leaders are united in opposition, although the idea has been backed by Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South) and Respect MP George Galloway (Bradford West).

Last night, David Green, Bradford’s Council's Labour leader, criticised ministers for sending mixed messages, after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg insisted a mayor would not be imposed.

He said: "We have not received a firm commitment from the Government and there seems to be confusion at the highest level.

"One arm of Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is insisting on a metro mayor, while the deputy prime minister is stating that’s not necessary.

"Discussions are still going on to try to secure a deal, but the councils in West Yorkshire are adamant that a mayor can’t be imposed. The combined authority is working well."

The Treasury declined to comment ahead of today’s statement, but the source close to the negotiations said it would be very surprising to get more than a commitment to a deal.

Last month, Greater Manchester was handed new powers over transport spending, bus services, health, housing, business support and the police, but only after it agreed to have a mayor.

Most striking were the chance to end bus deregulation, introduce ‘smart ticketing’ and keep the rewards from economic growth, to fund a tram extension.

Mr Osborne has beefed up his threat since then, saying: "If you want a really big transfer of powers to a big metro area then I think an elected mayor is part of that package."

The Chancellor views the combined authority for the five West Yorkshire districts - Bradford, Leeds, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield - as a success, but fears it lacks decisive leadership.

However, more minor powers could yet be handed over in a smaller devolution package, if neither side is willing to back down.