Read the first of Wakefield Council leader Peter Box’s monthly columns.
Welcome to the first of my monthly columns where I will be talking about topics that affect you – the residents of the Wakefield district - along with the latest issues in local government.
As Leader of the Council, I try and focus on two key roles.
Firstly, I represent the district, locally and nationally. I lobby the government and work closely with partners, whose decisions often affect our residents, to get the best deal possible for the district.
The other big part of my role is talking to you. I enjoy getting out and about, meeting people and listening to what you have to say – good or bad!
At the heart of what I do is getting the best deal possible for all our residents; this means working more closely with our neighbouring local authorities and sharing more services. It also means taking advantage of the government’s latest devolution plans, which could potentially give us more power to make our own decisions.
This is why, last month, along with the council leaders of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, we submitted a bid to the Government for further devolution.
The areas where we want funding devolved include transport, housing, business support and skills, as well as new powers to generate investment for major new projects.
However, the government has made it clear that in exchange for new powers they will insist on the introduction of an elected metro-mayor.
In the referendum held in 2012, you were quite clear that you didn’t want to see yet more politicians and I share this view. I think what most people want is their existing politicians to work together better, and in a smarter way, to get more done.
However, if the government are serious about devolving sufficient power, we need to take a balanced view of the devolution deal and act in the best interests of the Wakefield district and West Yorkshire – this may mean accepting the introduction of an elected metro-mayor.
A devolution deal, that devolves sufficient powers, may benefit the district, however, I don’t want you to be under the illusion that it holds all the answers, because it doesn’t.
I am determined that devolution does not become a vehicle for imposing further budget cuts on the Council. Doing what is right for the residents of the Wakefield district will guide the council’s decision making on this important issue.
The decision on our devolution bid lies in the hands of the government at this point, but there is still a long way to go and I’m interested to hear your views.