This month it became public knowledge that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority ‘super council’ chaired by Peter Box (also leader of Wakefield Metropolitan District Council) planned to rebrand their body as Leeds City Region Combined Authority.
After the (frankly dismal) decision by Vince Cable to scrap Yorkshire Forward in 2012 the government introduced new, smaller city based bodies known as Local Enterprise Partnerships, including the Leeds City Region LEP. With the offer of city region devolution deals seemingly dead in the water and with growing public awareness of the abysmal government devolution plans for Yorkshire it seems that the WYCA decided to sneak through a rebranding to bring them into line with the LEP and secure a devolved city region for Leeds (including the election of a Leeds Mayor). This bizarre situation would have meant that a vast area covering North, West and South Yorkshire would have become part of a Leeds region, regardless of what the residents of York or Barnsley may feel about such a ridiculous situation. Likewise the very moniker ‘city region’ haphazardly misses the importance of our rural areas. Social media has also seen a massive spike in the number of accounts tweeting references to the Leeds City Region, often for projects or organisations from places as afar as Pontefract and even direct neighbours Bradford. Many of these social media accounts appear to be organisations with no apparent link to the region, such as marketing companies. It made me wonder… So i started to reply to them. They didn’t like it, many blocked me.
The campaign against the decision soon picked up pace and Bradford Councillor Simon Cooke (a member of WYCA) confirmed that he would speak out against the plan at the public meeting scheduled to vote on the matter, he confirmed he would vote against. I contacted most of our members of parliament, most of our councillors and leader of Wakefield Metropolitan District Council, Peter Box, to ask them to support Councillor Simon Cooke in his nay vote and to join with the Yorkshire Party in condemning the plan. None responded. However, the quite intense social media coverage gained some press awareness and at the public meeting (which was streamed live) the WYCA were forced into voting down the proposition. The meeting can be viewed here (32 minutes onwards for this item).
Councillor Simon Cooke said; “If we’re serious about being a representative authority, then actually we need to engage properly with the people we represent.”
We did it. We won!