OPINION: Wakefield Council leader Peter Box - No appetite for more politicians

Leader of Wakefield Council Peter Box.
Leader of Wakefield Council Peter Box.

In 2012 the government asked you if you wanted an elected mayor. You voted overwhelmingly that you didn’t.

Since then I think that the West Yorkshire Leaders have shown that we can work together better, smarter and get things done collectively.

Work begins on Eastern Relief Road.

Work begins on Eastern Relief Road.

Two years ago a deal was agreed to create the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, bringing together Wakefield, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, and York councils, and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, as a combined force for economic growth.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority is about private and public sector partners raising the quality of life in our region through business and economic growth, skills, affordable housing and transport.

It has already secured a £1 billion-plus deal for the region. Here in Wakefield it has helped us access £33m of funding for the Wakefield Eastern Relief Road, which will help create thousands of jobs and 2,500 new homes, as well as relieving congestion. We also got £6m for Castleford Bus Station, £4.6m for Kirkgate Station and £3.5m for the University Centre, to help our young and older people realise their full potential closer to home.

All this has been achieved without a Mayor.

It is the result of existing politicians working together to get better results with what we’ve got.

However, since the General Election last year the government is insisting on tearing up this deal and replacing it with one that will mean we are forced to have an elected mayor. And the government have said that this time you won’t be allowed to have your say.

I know from talking to people across the district that there is a strong feeling that we already have enough politicians and that there is no appetite for more.

In October I told you that we – as part of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority - were working on an ambitious devolution deal. We’ll need to decide whether the powers we are given make it worth having a mayor.

At present it’s proving difficult to persuade the government to be really ambitious.

But I can give you an assurance that before I sign up to any new deal there will be consultation with residents, businesses and all your local councillors.

The Express can play a key role in reaching people as well.

The government may not want to give you a voice on this, but I do.