'Unique' Wakefield devolution deal remains council policy

Council staff are working on proposals to have powers transferred from Westminster to Wakefield.
Council staff are working on proposals to have powers transferred from Westminster to Wakefield.

Efforts are still ongoing to secure an exclusive devolution deal for the Wakefield district.

Council leader Peter Box revealed last July that he was going to pursue a "unique" arrangement for Wakefield, after growing frustrated at the government's reluctance to sign off a so-called One Yorkshire devolution deal.

Council leader Peter Box

Council leader Peter Box

Coun Box said that the agreement would address the challenges posed to the district by robots, after a report last year revealed Wakefield could lose 30 per cent of its workforce to new technology.

The Labour group leader suggested that a draft proposal for any deal would be made publicly available in September 2018, but the issue was not mentioned in any subsequent full council meeting until this week.

However, the local authority insists pursuing a deal for Wakefield remains policy.

In a statement released just hours before Wednesday's full council meeting, Coun Box said: "We are continuing our work on a city deal for the Wakefield district. We are considering how we can work with government and other organisations to address the risk to jobs and firms in the Wakefield area around automation and robotics.

"This work complements the existing Leeds City Region deal and is looking at elements that are specific to Wakefield."

He later told councillors he will meet with the Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire on Friday to discuss the issue.

He said in July he would continue to support other councils over the idea of region-wide devolution, but warned against "banging our heads against a brick wall forever" over the government's attitude.