Box told to resign over attack on minister

Coun Simon Cooke
Coun Simon Cooke
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WEST YORKSHIRE Combined Authority chairman Peter Box faces calls to resign over his devolution attack on Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy.

Coun Simon Cooke, Conservative group leader on Bradford Council, described Coun Box’s comments as “wholly inappropriate” to make in his role as West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) chairman.

Coun Peter Box, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Wakefield Council

Coun Peter Box, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Wakefield Council

In an official combined authority statement last week, Coun Box accused Mr Percy of trying to divide Yorkshire council leaders in their efforts to secure devolution deals moving powers from Whitehall to the region.

Coun Box, also the Labour leader of Wakefield Council, described Mr Percy’s approach to the devolution discussions as “incredibly disappointing”.

Coun Cooke said: “Pretty much every politician in West Yorkshire and the wider region is aware of Coun Box’s views regarding the devolution of powers from government to our region, but to make an angry rant against Andrew Percy, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, in the name of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority is wholly inappropriate.

“Primarily I think that he should resign because whilst claiming on the combined authority website that Andrew Percy is being divisive, it is actually he who is the obstacle and his motives are uncertain but certainly not constructive.”

Coun Cooke described Coun Box’s statement as not “remotely helpful in securing a deal for West Yorkshire”.

He added: “Coun Box’s angry rants should be made in his own name or that of Wakefield Council and I am calling for him to resign, in order that a major obstacle to devolution can be removed and we can move forward with securing a deal for Yorkshire.”

Coun Box’s attack came after Mr Percy rejected a proposal to create a Yorkshire mayor as part of a single devolution deal for the whole region.

WYCA has also yet to receive an official response to its alternative proposal for a deal covering the Leeds City Region.

Coun Box said he was “disappointed” by Coun Cooke’s comments.

He added: “This is a smokescreen to hide the fact that the Government is not prepared to match the ambitious devolution proposals put forward by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.”

The Sheffield City Region - made up of South Yorkshire, Chesterfield and Bassetlaw - are so far the only part of Yorkshire to agree a devolution deal with government although it is on hold following a legal ruling.

Voters will go to the polls in May to elect ‘metro-mayors’ in other areas including Greater Manchester and Tees Valley.