NICK Clegg has branded Bradford’s Council leader “churlish and sour” after he gave the district’s devolution deal the thumbs-down.

David Green, and other West Yorkshire political leaders, sharply criticised the Budget Day announcement as timid and falling far short of what they need.

In the agreement, West Yorkshire was promised extra freedoms over spending on skills, transport, housing and support for small businesses.

And they will have an input into further education budgets and courses, allowing the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to work with small businesses to take on apprentices.

But the deal way short of the radical devolution pledged to Manchester, after West Yorkshire rejected the imposition of a single ‘metro mayor’ across all five councils.


In the Commons, David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, described the deal as “groundbreaking” – and questioned why it had received a “less than generous response”.

In reply, Mr Clegg said: “I was struck by the rather churlish and sour note coming from a number of Labour leaders in West Yorkshire about a deal that amounts to a very significant transfer of power, money and responsibility.

“It would be much better if we could work on a cross-party basis to welcome, rather than denigrate, those steps towards further devolution.”

But Councillor Green pointed out that Mr Clegg himself had – in a recent speech in Leeds – promised West Yorkshire the same powers as Manchester, only to fall woefully short.

And he said: “We think the people of West Yorkshire have every right to be disappointed, given the promises the deputy prime minister made.

“What we are saying is that this agreement is a small step forward and that the next Government should deliver on those devolution promises.”

In his 59-minute Budget speech, Mr Osborne devoted only a single sentence to his “agreement with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority for a new city deal”.

And, despite the T&A requesting to see any document of the agreement, none was produced by the Treasury.

Meanwhile, Ed Balls dramatically ripped up Labour’s support for part of the HS2 high-speed rail project – insisting faster trans-Pennine routes must be built first.

The current plan – with priority for 225mph trains between London and Yorkshire – was “topsy-turvy”, he said, adding: “It has no economic or business logic at all.”

The Shadow Chancellor instead threw his weight behind yesterday’s report by a committee of peers which argued faster routes across the North would deliver a bigger economic boost.

And he said: “Why would you decide to spend 20 years improving North-South links before finally – in the third phase – coming to East-West?

“It’s perverse and wrong and it’s not what people want in the North. It should be done before the second phase of HS2 - getting on with doing East-West now is a priority."

All three parties back the legislation to build and operate the first phase of HS2, between London and Birmingham, by 2026 – although Mr Balls said there was “no blank cheque”

A ‘Y-shaped’ network will deliver extra lines to Leeds and Manchester by 2033, but some Bradford MPs and Bradford Council have argued HS2 offers little to the city.

But Mr Clegg has vowed to press ahead, saying: “One of the biggest infrastructure projects in a generation should not be jeopardised by short sightedness.”