BRADFORD Council has voted to back plans to devolve powers and create a West Yorkshire Mayoral Authority at its first full Council meeting since lockdown.

However, not all members were happy with the deal, with one Councillor claiming it will create a “Greater Leeds” authority and arguing a One Yorkshire Devolution deal would be preferable.

The deal was discussed at two meetings today.

In the morning, the decision-making Executive backed plans for West Yorkshire to get an elected mayor and devolved powers.

Announced in March, the Devolution deal would see West Yorkshire given spending powers over transport and skills budgets, as well as an election for a West Yorkshire Mayor – which will take place in May.

The Executive was discussing the response to a public consultation on the plans at an online meeting.

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Around 4,500 people across West Yorkshire responded to the consultation, although only 629 responses were received from Bradford.

The majority of responses showed support for the deal, or for the main aspects of it, such as a more local say on spending.

At the Executive meeting Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “This deal is a great opportunity for us to make sure we get extra powers and finances to drive economic growth in the area.”

The deal includes £38 million funding per year for at least 30 years.

Ben Still, Managing Director of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said the response to the Consultation was higher than any other consultation on devolved Mayoral powers in the Country.

He added: “The response was larger and more positive than we expected.”

Councillor Geoff Winnard (Cons, Bingley) said: “Better decisions can be made on spending if they are made locally. It is as good a deal as was available in the circumstances.

“4,500 responses is not ideal, and suggests this whole development is going over the heads of a huge swathe of the population, and that something needs to be done to explain to people what is happening.”

As well as an online consultation, thousands of paper copies were sent out to “digitally disconnected” households in West Yorkshire, who may not have been able to respond online.

Overall 96 people responded through there paper copies.

But Councillor Debbie Davies (Cons, Baildon) pointed out that only nine people from Bradford responded this way.

She added: “What was the cost and could any more have been done to improve these responses?”

Mr Still said the approach the the survey was the same across West Yorkshire, and independent organisation Ipsos Mori had been hired to carry out the consultation.

He said the entire contract for the consultation cost £70,000.

Responding to the relatively low public response rates, Cllr Hinchcliffe said: “People will not generally be as interested in governance processes. They are more interested in what it delivers locally.”

She pointed out that projects like the Hard Ings Road improvement scheme in Keighley and the proposed City Village in Bradford came from investment from West Yorkshire Combined Authority – and said Devolution would expand these spending powers.

Cllr Hinchcliffe said: “It is what Devolution will provide that is important to people, that is what they’ll pay attention to.”

Councillor John Pennington (Cons, Bingley) supported the plans for more localised spending decisions, but questioned if it would come at a cost. He said: “People need to be aware that their Council Tax bills may look very different in April 2022.”

He was referring to the power of the new elected Mayor to add a precept to Council Tax bills to fund projects in West Yorkshire.

Mr Still said: “There is no inevitability that charges will be brought in, just that powers exist for that to be done.”

Cllr Hinchcliffe pointed out that many transport schemes would be funded locally by West Yorkshire taxpayers, even if there was not a Mayoral Authority.”

In the afternoon, the issue went before the full Council, where similar arguments in favour of the deal were made by Cllr Hinchcliffe. She said: “We need to make sure the people of the District feel the benefits of this. It has to mean something to people and their daily lives.

“It might be that it leads to a job created for your grandson, or your business growing faster than it would if there hadn’t been an investment in West Yorkshire, or that the bus network is better than it used to be.

“It has to deliver for every resident and every community in the District.”

The independent group on the Council proposed that the deal be declined until it provided “fair and reasonable representation for independents and smaller groups.”

However, that motion was not approved.

The Liberal Democrats on the Council also raised concerns, with Councillor Alun Griffiths (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) saying although he favoured Devolution, this deal was a “step in the wrong direction.”

He said a previously mooted devolution deal that incorporated all of Yorkshire would be preferable to the West Yorkshire deal, which he referred to as “greater Leeds.”

And Martin Love (Green, Shipley) said that although he was a supported of the idea of devolution, he couldn’t support this plan.

He added: “Most of what is proposed is actually giving power to a higher authority. Power will go to a single individual with jurisdiction over an abstract geographical area with a second rate scrutiny system.”

However, the majority of Councillors voted in favour of the deal. The decision will now be submitted to the Secretary of State.