The Chancellor’s budget statement did not give us the devolution prize we want for Yorkshire, but I am hoping that the signs are still encouraging for us to reach the right deal.
On the plus side, the confirmation of better rail and road links is welcome – however, as always, we now need to see the detail to ensure that Kirklees benefits from this investment. And improvements to the M62 will hopefully reduce the congestion and the loss to the economy of time spent in heavy traffic on the motorway.
But on the negative side, it is disappointing that George Osborne made no mention of the progress we have made so far on a devolution deal for the Leeds City Region. I believe this is the only viable footprint that will allow us to make the economic achievements we all want to see. We know there is widespread support for our proposal from local business leaders, and while the current situation is frustrating, we will continue to work to secure the right deal for the region.
That means a deal that builds on what we have already achieved – an increase in economic growth and a focus on skills to meet the needs of existing and future businesses.
I believe there is still time to agree a deal within the 2017 timescale that other northern regions are working towards, especially as there is the determination of everyone involved to make sure that we get the balance right between speed and getting the right deal to give us the best chance of making economic progress.
West Yorkshire council leaders are aiming for an urgent meeting with government to make sure we reach a deal as quickly as possible – any further delays will be to the detriment of jobs, growth and business investment in our region.