Robots could put Wakefield jobs at risk

Wakefield Council leader Coun Peter Box
Wakefield Council leader Coun Peter Box
  • They could take 30 per cent of jobs by 2030
  • Almost 400,000 posts are predicted to be automated across Yorkshire
  • Council leader calls for devolution deal
  • Robotics ‘could be a problem for our city’

The city’s council leader Peter Box has promised to pursue a “unique” deal for the area, after Communities Secretary James Brokenshire told senior Yorkshire politicians region-wide devolution was off the table for now.

In a letter to council leaders, Mr Brokenshire said that the government would wait for a separate deal in the Sheffield City region to be put into practice before returning to the issue.

Coun Box, who offered his cautious backing to a Yorkshire devolution deal earlier this year, says as a result of the government’s position he has asked officers to produce a plan that could see certain powers exclusively transferred to Wakefield.

Speaking at the last meeting of the full council before the summer recess, Coun Box said he wanted a deal similar to one currently being negotiated by Hull City Council and that it would focus on the prospect of the district losing jobs to technology.

A report in January this year said that Wakefield could lose around 30 per cent of its jobs to robots by the year 2030, the second highest of any place in the country.

He said: “The Secretary of State has made it quite clear that the government will not talk about a wider devolution deal until the Sheffield City Region deal has been fully implemented.

“That’s been made absolutely quite clear.

“I’ve asked officer colleagues to start working on a city deal for Wakefield. That I believe should be unique to Wakefield and would focus on robotics, because that as we all know will pose a particular problem for Wakefield.

“That’s a process that’s being done and that will be made available early in September.”

Coun Box said he would continue to work with councils still haggling for a Yorkshire deal, but warned of “banging our heads against a brick wall forever”.

The issue has been hotly discussed since the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, but no agreement between local leaders and the government has been close.

Coun Box added: “This is not to say that we won’t continue to work with colleagues in the region who want a wider deal, but we’ve got to make sure that if the Secretary of State confirms what has been said in the last few days, we’re ready to put something alternative in place.”

The Centre for Cities think tank said around one in four jobs in Yorkshire cities, 400,000, were likely to be displaced by 2030 as a result of automation and globalisation,