Leeds must not take prominence in West Yorkshire devolution deals, Labour politicians say

Senior Labour politicians have warned that Wakefield’s identity cannot be lost in any devolution deal, as West Yorkshire edged closer to signing on the dotted line.

Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffrey told a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that “the devolution deal is now very close”.

"We're down to the nuts and bolts of it now,” she said.

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"We've got a conference call on Thursday with ministers and that will hopefully sign things off."

Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett. Photo: Getty

But the move solidifies the position of Wakefield that they would not join a deal which put Leeds at the centre, through fears the city’s identity and independence would be lost.

Labour MP for Hemsworth Jon Trickett, whose constituency falls into the Wakefield district, said: “I have lived in West Yorkshire all my life. I come from Leeds but I have represented part of Wakefield for 24 years.

“New powers for the region are welcome but it is a red line for me that Wakefield is not seen as inferior to Leeds. Equally, Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield are proud and independent parts of West Yorkshire.

“Leeds is a great city and a powerhouse for the whole region, but any devolution deal must be set up to work for all of West Yorkshire.

“I am calling on the Government to reject the idea of a new Leeds City Region and instead agree to devolution to West Yorkshire, as a step to handing over real power to Yorkshire as a whole in due course”.

While Ms Jeffrey added: "I have for a long time believed that West Yorkshire needs additional powers, devolved from London. After all, we know what’s best for our area.

“But I will never agree that Wakefield should simply be regarded as a part of Leeds City Region. The City of Wakefield has a proud history and we benefit from our partnership with Leeds. But it is a partnership of equals.

“If there is to be a new arrangement, let it be one for the whole of West Yorkshire not one that appears only to give Leeds a dominant role".

Talks for the deal began on January 29, when Exchequer Secretary Simon Clarke said: “We are determined to level-up opportunities so that all communities, including those here in West Yorkshire, get their fair share of our future prosperity.

“Today we take a step forward by opening talks on a mayoral devolution deal for the Leeds City Region – right in the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.

“This will give local people, who know their area best, the power to shape their own destiny.”