“No more politicians” says Wakefield leader over devolution deal

Peter Box
Peter Box

People in Wakefield “do not want more politicians” if Yorkshire secures a devolution deal, the city’s council leader has said.

Coun Peter Box suggested people would take a dim view of more bureaucracy if the region was given devolved powers from central government.

Wakefield’s council polls earlier this month saw a turnout of just under 27 per cent - a figure the Labour group leader attributed to “election fatigue” and voter apathy with politicians “of all kinds”.

Despite publicly backing a region-wide deal which would see Yorkshire have its own mayor, Coun Box has made no secret of his preference to see powers transferred to individual parts of the county.

He said: “The real challenge of the Yorkshire model will be to ensure that any bureaucracy and red tape is kept to an absolute minimum.

“I know from talking to people in this district (Wakefield) that the last thing anyone wants is more politicians or bureaucrats.

“I do not know of anyone who is seriously suggesting that one person can “run” Yorkshire. We must make sure therefore that there will be a strong element of local control over the purse strings.”

Despite being one of 18 council leaders to ask Prime Minister Theresa May for a Yorkshire mayor by 2020, Coun Box has now rated the prospect of a deal before then as “unlikely”.

He said his support for the One Yorkshire deal was based on the fact that his preferred deal for the Leeds City Region, which he said would be better for Wakefield’s economy, was not on the table.

He added: “Yorkshire is not a functional economic area. Of course Yorkshire is a ‘brand’ but that is not an economic argument. This leads to the conclusion that we should follow the footprint of Yorkshire’s distinct economies but as the government are unwilling to consider this we must turn to the only model at present on offer.

“It seems unlikely that we will reach a deal by 2020 but I am continuing to ensure that we have a model that will make a real impact on Wakefield and most importantly improves the quality of people’s lives.”