Council leader says 'we are here and open for business' as he takes up new role

Coun Peter Box
Coun Peter Box

The leader of Wakefield Council has said his new role as chairman of a group of 21 local authorities will help to put Wakefield on the map.

Councillor Peter Box took up his new position for the Key Cities Group earlier this month.

The body, founded in 2013, brings together cities classed as having "mid-sized" populations and economies.

Coun Box said it lobbies the government for support and investment in its cities, to help grow their economies, attract private sector investment and create jobs, in turn boosting prosperity nationally.

He said: "Everybody is trying to attract government and private sector investment, it is a very competitive market.

"Part of our role is to make sure that we are known.

"We are trying to put our cities on the map nationally as often and as loudly as we can.

"Wakefield being a part of the Key Cities Group means that we are making sure it is kept in the spotlight amongst investors."

Coun Box will now take the lead as "the voice of the Key Cities".

He will work with other member authorities and government ministers to promote the group's economic interests and facilitate industrial growth and skills development both locally and nationally.

"I think it is important that cities like Wakefield are able to influence ministers," Coun Box said.

"Collectively, we have given ministers a better understanding of the benefits of investing in key cities. That has to be to the benefit of Wakefield.

"I think we have seen huge amounts of investment coming into Wakefield, in housing, in the private sector, in creating new jobs.

"Part of my role is lobbying with other cities to let people know we are here and we are open for business."

Coun Box, who has led Wakefield Council for 19 years, replaced Sunderland Council leader Coun Paul Watson as chairman of the group.

He said Key Cities councils had seen greater economic growth than larger “Core City” areas since 2008.

“Our message is clear," he said. "If you want to achieve more growth, more quickly, then Key Cities are best placed to deliver this.

The Key Cities councils are Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bradford, Coventry, Derby, Doncaster, Hull, Kirklees, Newport, Norwich, Oxford, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, Salford, Southampton, Southend-on-Sea Sunderland, Tees Valley, Wakefield and Wolverhampton. Wakefield was one of the founding members.