£1.8 billion devolution deal is 'a big opportunity' for Wakefield

The leader of Wakefield Council has urged the public to “look beyond the bureaucracy” as a consultation on the West Yorkshire devolution deal starts.

Friday, 29th May 2020, 1:00 pm
Updated Friday, 29th May 2020, 2:39 pm

People across the region are being encouraged to give their views on the proposed deal, which would see its first metro mayor elected in May 2021.

Councillor Denise Jeffery said she accepted and agreed with arguments from critics that the deal means another layer of politics.

But she said the funding on offer for West Yorkshire – £1.8billion over 30 years – was too good to turn down.

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Denise Jeffery (third from left) has urged the public to look beyond the bureaucracy as a consultation on the West Yorkshire devolution deal starts.

In a direct pitch to residents in Wakefield, Coun Jeffery said: “The government’s talked a lot of about levelling up in recent years.

“I think there’s been too much levelling down in places like ours.

“But that’s why I think this is such a big opportunity for us. £1.8billion is absolutely amazing.

“I hope people can look beyond another layer of bureaucracy because the government have decided they’re going down this road with elected mayors and we can’t get left behind.

“As I’ve said before I think this is the only game in town.”

The deal comes with new powers over things like public transport and skills and the new mayor will take over the duties of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), which sets priorities for West Yorkshire Police.

Councillor Jeffery acknowledged the results of a 2012 referendum on whether or not Wakefield should have an elected mayor, a change from the current system, where elected councillors elect a leader.

Back then, 62 per cent of voters came out against the proposal, as did Coun Jeffery, who was Wakefield’s deputy leader at the time.

Speaking on Monday, Coun Jeffery said: “Originally an elected mayor wasn’t something Wakefield wanted.

“We knew that people didn’t want more politicians.

“I led the campaign against it back then, so I know people must be looking at me and thinking, “What’s she on about now?!”

“But this now is about funding and it’s about the future of West Yorkshire and getting our fair share.

“I’d ask people to get in touch with your views, whatever they are, and they will all be taken into account.”

The consultation will be open for eight weeks, finishing on July 19.

The responses are then likely to be discussed by Wakefield Council at a full council meeting in September.

With libraries and leisure centres closed, the council says it’s not possible for paper consultations to be sent out or collected.

However, you can give your views online, by letter or over the phone.

Visit yourvoice.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/WYdevolution to take part in the 20 minute survey online, or email your thoughts to [email protected]

Questions can also be submitted to the website above.

Alternatively, freephone 0800 141 3657, or write to Freepost WY Devolution Consultation.

Visit westyorks-ca.gov.uk for more information on the proposed deal.