By Tony Earnshaw LDRS
It means devolution for the region – and an elected West Yorkshire Mayor – is another step closer.
Proposing consent to the deal Council Leader Shabir Pandor described it as “a huge moment for Kirklees and a huge moment for West Yorkshire” and that it would “shape our future” by providing some freedom and flexibility.
He added: “It’s probably the best devolution deal that has been struck with the government” and called it “the big prize”.
He said Westminster had “stepped up” and urged the council to follow suit by endorsing the deal.
Labour and the Conservatives voted for the draft order at a meeting of full council (Nov 25). Consent for the draft order going to government was ratified the following morning by Cabinet. (Nov 26).
The £1.8bn devolution deal includes £38 million per year for 30 years to go into a West Yorkshire Investment Fund with significant freedoms to spend on local priorities.
The Transforming Cities Fund will offer a further £317m and there will be £63m annually geared towards adult education.
The deal did not find favour with Liberal Democrats, who voted against the draft order to establish a mayoral combined authority.
Group leader Clr John Lawson (Cleckheaton) described it as “a Faustian pact” and added: “There’s a question about democracy and local voices of residents and councillors being lost in the concentration of powers into one role.
“The answer is: think of the money!
“Points raised about scrutiny and the ability to challenge decisions in a public forum? The money. When we ask questions about the relatively small amount of money that goes with the deal? The answer is still the money.”
His party colleague Anthony Smith (Lindley) called it “a bad deal” and described it as “devolution in name only”.
He suggested that “new money” totalling “just £38m” when spread across the region would have “little to no impact”.
He said new posts and additional layers of red tape would be paid for by a rise in council tax.
Clr Alison Munro (Almondbury) said she was in favour of devolution but not the deal being voted on.
She said it “no longer confers planning powers in the region”, which will impact upon local people.
The Conservatives voted for the deal with group leader Clr David Hall (Liversedge and Gomersal) urging all members to support it “reluctantly, if necessary”.
He said: “We have got to make a decision and added: “Remember there is a very good financial package attached to this.
“It includes a great deal of money for Kirklees alongside the other four
council areas. In this regard, we need to ensure that our voice is heard loud and clear to gain our fair share of this extra investment – and we shall hold the Leader to account for this.”
He cautioned, “Kirklees must not remain the poor relation of Leeds and Bradford.”
For the Greens Clr Andrew Cooper (Newsome), who is the Green Party candidate for mayor, warned that the role’s cabinet could be formed of “old-style Labour leaders and token appointees from the other parties.”
He added: “This does not look like real devolution to me. It looks like business as usual, the status quo and no change, particularly if we end up with a Labour mayor dealing with Labour council leaders.”
He questioned why planning powers that would have been devolved by Government had been shelved “with no real explanation by government and no challenge by Labour? Could it be that this undemocratic, unaccountable structure is exactly what Labour wants?”
West Yorkshire council leaders were present with Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the devolution launch in Leeds on March 12.
The draft order will be laid in parliament next month, which will then go to Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick.
West Yorkshire’s first-ever elected mayor is set to be voted on in May 2021.