New West Yorkshire mayor's priority should be to make region globally competitive - CBI chief Tony Danker

The new mayor for West Yorkshire’s top priority should be to make the region internationally competitive, the head of Britain’s biggest business organisation has said.

Tony Danker director general of the CBI, told The Yorkshire Post that whoever wins the election to be mayor of the region would need to forge a coalition of business and political leaders in order to position the Leeds City Region as a globally relevant destination.

Mr Danker added that mayors around the English regions now need to be handed economic powers in addition to political controls in order to ensure that the Government’s levelling up agenda becomes a reality.

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In an exclusive interview, Mr Danker said: “I am a big fan of mayors and I am confident that having a West Yorkshire mayor will be a good thing for the region.

West Yorkshire is finally to have a mayor.

“I think the things that mayors can really do above their concrete powers, is forge an economic story for a place.

“Manchester is a great story of economic regeneration because it had a set of political leaders aligned with a set of business leaders around a common story and vision of a place.

And so I would say job number one, in almost more profound terms, is to form an economic vision of a place and how it competes and to form that vision with business.”

He added: “Whoever the mayor is we will help forge that kind of vision and narrative for the competitiveness of the place and then everything should feed into that.

Tony Danker

“That is the high level stuff.”

The results of the West Yorkshire mayoral race are anticipated to be announced on Sunday, with Labour’s Tracy Brabin and Conservative Matthew Robinson the frontrunners.

Once elected it will mean the region will join the likes of South Yorkshire, Manchester, Liverpool, the Tees Valley and the West Midlands in having its own elective figurehead to represent the region both nationally and internationally.

Mr Danker said that it was his view that now was the time to expand the powers of these mayors to take greater fiscal control over the geographies they serve.

Tony Danker

"If the creation of a mayoralty provides some political leadership in a place then the next step has to be giving it economic leadership,” he said.

"That means devolution of funding on a significantly long term basis so you can build the coalition I am describing, get people aligned behind a plan and go for it.

"That’s what needs to come next."

Mr Danker, a former special advisor to the Treasury, added that Yorkshire’s economy had numerous sectors which would be capable of being ripe for growth, citing its renewable industries, financial and professional services offering and its advanced manufacturing