A new £1billion upgrade of the transport infrastructure in Leeds and the wider region will be discussed by senior councillors next week.
The creation of the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund is one of the elements of the City Deal announced last month which will see unprecedented local decision-making and spending powers passed down from central government.
Leeds City Council’s executive board will now debate what those changes will mean for the city at a meeting at Civic Hall on Wednesday 17 October, with the areas to be focused on being transport, infrastructure, trade and inward investment and skills and worklessness.
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield said:
“The City Deal offers an incredibly significant opportunity for Leeds and our colleagues and partners across the Leeds City Region to control our own destiny much more than ever before and to make decisions to bring about major long-term improvements to transport, economic growth, job creation and opportunities for everyone to benefit from.
“Improving our transport infrastructure is at the heart of that, as it is absolutely vital to drive the local economy which will in turn provide jobs and regeneration, so it hugely important we use the City Deal to make a real difference.”
The new transport fund would aim to boost productivity and deliver jobs and training, and is projected to bring about approximately 23,000 new jobs up to 2026 with more to follow in the years after.
In Leeds, potential investments could include improved access to Leeds Bradford International Airport and the capacity of the ring road, new park and ride facilities, and an extension of the Next Generation Transport scheme – known as trolleybus.
Other improvements could also be made to the public transport network, cycling and walking facilities plus upgrades of key highway junctions and new infrastructure being put in place to aid future development in the city.
The City Deal will be delivered by the Leeds City Region Partnership, made up of 11 local authorities in Yorkshire working together and with the private sector.
Aside from the transport fund, the councillors in Leeds will also consider a new way in which to increase resources in light of new proposals for dealing with business rates.
The executive board will debate plans for Leeds to take the lead in pooling the retained business rate income of eight local authorities in the Leeds City Region from April 2013 with the proceeds being placed in a new regional investment fund.
Currently business rates are collected by local authorities, paid into a national pool and redistributed on the basis of need. Under the new scheme authorities will be able to keep a proportion of any growth in their business rates but will be subject to a complex system of top-ups and tariffs.
Due to the combination of ‘top-up’ and ‘tariff’ authorities involved it is predicted that operating as the Leeds City Region pool would result in additional income of £600,000 a year initially which could rise to up to £4m a year by 2018/19 to be used for regional investment.
In order to deliver on the aims of the City Deal, the government has required local authorities to look at the possibility of creating a new combined authority to oversee some of the new localised powers and funding which would be in place by spring 2014.
The executive board in Leeds will therefore consider the proposal to carry out a review of governance arrangements related to transport, economic development and regeneration as well as considering whether a new combined authority would be beneficial. Other local authorities in Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield will be asked jointly to conduct this review, as will the West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority.
Talks will also be held with the wider Leeds City Region areas with the findings being assessed early in the new year and if approved, further consultation would be carried out and a business case put together to be considered by the government by July 2013.
Councillor Wakefield added:
“The City Deal will have a massively beneficial impact in Leeds and will affect every element of the city. Now the deal has been signed it is up to us all to work together to deliver it and this is the start of that process.”
Notes to editors:
The Leeds City Region Partnership
The Leeds City Region (LCR) Partnership brings together a group of 11 local authorities (Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Selby, Wakefield, York and North Yorkshire County Council) with businesses and partners to support economic growth and a better quality of life for our communities.
The Leeds City Region Deal
On September 18 2012, the government and Leeds City Region signed a City Deal which provides a transfer of powers and funding from national to local government. It gives local government greater control over spending and decision-making to make decisions in line with key priorities for growth in the city region.
The areas focused on in this first city deal are skills, transport, investment funds, trade and inward investment as well as new robust governance arrangements to help with the efficient delivery of objectives.
For further information please download the Leeds City Region Deal Brief online at www.leedscityregion.gov.uk
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Leeds City Council, Tel 0113 247 5472