Thriving cities ‘key to better life across region’

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TOWNS and cities beyond Leeds and Sheffield have been promised they too will see the benefits of the Government’s new Cities Agenda, despite missing out on the first round of decentralisation.

So far only eight “core cities” have been offered new power deals which will see important controls handed back from Whitehall.

But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted this did not mean other urban centres such as Bradford, Hull, Wakefield and Doncaster would miss out – and promised thriving cites will bring benefits for rural areas too.

“We have to start somewhere,” he said. “It’s logical to start with the eight biggest cities.

“They have organised themselves (together), and it’s an easy way for us to start with them and hopefully they can make a big success of it – and then we can spread it to places like Hull and Bradford.

“We have got absolutely no limit to our ambition to see this spread to other cities.”

Mr Clegg added that some new powers, such as the ability to borrow money against future business rates, would be made automatically available to all councils straight away.

Most will only be available to the so-called “core cities” however.

One of the measures – handing control of former Yorkshire Forward assets to Leeds and Sheffield – has already angered other towns and cities across Yorkshire.

Buildings and land owned by the soon-to-be-defunct regional development agency, including key schemes such as the Tower Works site in Leeds and the former Odeon cinema in Bradford – have been handed to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

Ministers had refused to allow councils to take direct control of the assets unless they paid market value for them. But yesterday the Government said core cities may be allowed to take control of the assets in their area.

Other councils will not be given the same powers at the moment.

That sparked anger in Barnsley, where the Metropolitan Centre – which will remain in the hands of the HCA – is crucial to the town’s Markets redevelopment project.

Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher said: “I think it’s outrageous that only Leeds and Sheffield should be regarded in Yorkshire as being ‘core’. We need a plan with jobs and growth throughout Yorkshire, including in Barnsley.”