Council chiefs gear up for new spending powers

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COUNCILLORS from across West Yorkshire say they are ready to put plans to grow the area’s economy and create jobs into action when the Government gives them new powers next year.

Councils in West Yorkshire and York are joining forces through a new “combined authority” which will oversee a £1bn fund to spend on transport projects and a £400m pot to invest in other projects.

The investment funds will be part financed through the devolution of Government spending to the region and supporters of the authority hope it will take control over more decisions from Whitehall in the future.

The authority, chaired by Wakefield Council leader Peter Box, has now met for the first time to discuss preparations for when it formally starts work in April.

Councillor Box said: “By taking decisions affecting West Yorkshire away from Westminster, and instead deciding them locally, we can ensure that the investment in the region is made where it can have the biggest impact.

“Significant and well-targeted investment in the transport network for example will create significant opportunities for economic growth, enabling existing, and new, businesses to become more productive through reducing lost time caused by congestion, and allowing better links between people’s homes and major employment areas.”

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority will be made up of the leaders of the six councils, all Labour, as well as Robert Light and Andrew Carter, leaders of the Conservative groups on Kirklees and Leeds Councils respectively and Janet Battye, Liberal Democrat group leader in Calderdale.

Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), will also have a seat.

Coun Box added: “We are where we expected to be by this stage.

“It is important that we meet as a shadow board to ensure that everything is in place ready for us to be fully functioning and delivering for our first meeting proper in April.

“So while no formal decisions can be taken as yet, this is an important stage in setting the landscape for where the combined authority will operate, its relationship to councils and the LEP, 
and ensuring that we all have the same expectations of what needs to be achieved by April and beyond.”