The creation of a West Yorkshire major provides a “genuine possibility” to develop an integrated transport system for the region, a major business event was told

Andrew Carter, the Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said the election of the first West Yorkshire mayor combined with increased devolution of powers could boost the region’s economy by improving the quality of infrastructure and land usage.

He told the online event organised by the Collaborative Professionals Network (CPN): “Over time the mayor and the combined authority will acquire more responsibility and more power., the deal done today is not the deal that is going to be in place forever.”

He said there was a recognition that the need to improve the performance of the local economy was not only critical for West Yorkshire but the UK as a whole.

Mr Carter said places with a combined authority and a mayor could get preferential treatment from Government.

With regards to infrastructure, Mr Carter told the event: “It presents a real opportunity to put together an over-arching land use strategy for the area..There is a genuine possibility to develop an integrated transport strategy.”

He said the new devolution of powers provided a chance to think about how West Yorkshire functions, the layout of the region and how areas within the county are going to develop.

The mayor and combined authority could, for example, have more influence over how the bus system operates, Mr Carter said. Consideration could also be given to how different modes of transport integrate with each other, instead of competing, he added.

Mark Goldstone​, the Head of Business Representation & Policy, at West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said an integrated transport system could help create a seamless connection between residential areas and city centres.

Mr Goldstone added: “Productivity across our region, and the north more broadly trails behind the national average and whilst there are many reason for this, much of is attributable to the level of skills across our region and the types of jobs which exist here. Simply bringing northern productivity up to the UK average is worth an extra £1bn per week to the UK economy.

“Despite declining investment in skills development over many decades, there has never been a more important time for business to engage with the skills system,” Mr Goldstone added.

“Devolution presents a once in a generation opportunity to take control over skills and develop programmes which meet the need of our regional business community.

“Furthermore it will allow our region to work collaboratively in designing training programmes which will meet the needs of future industries.”

“I have seen first-hand just how impactful employers working alongside education can be. In 2012 a small group of manufacturing employers along with the Chamber and Leeds University got together to try to do something about engagement with secondary education.

“Fast forward to 2016 and a brand new state of the art facility was opened close to Leeds City Centre. It is now delivering exactly the type of young people with the technical and employability skills that companies are crying out for.

“Over the last four years every single young person completing their education at UTC Leeds has gone on to a positive destination. This is almost unheard of in mainstream secondary education.

“The honest truth is that this is simply a drop in the ocean in addressing skills needs of engineering and manufacturing across our region. The number of students coming through this pathway will barely cover for the amount of people retiring from industry

“But just imagine the impact we could have if we are able to scale this approach up to a city region level. What could we achieve with all employers playing a role and investing in their current and future workforce’ working with colleges, universities, schools and training providers.”

Roger Marsh OBE DL, the Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and NP11, said: “The best way to predict the future is to go out there and create it.”

He said the long term aim was to create a more innovative, entrepreneurial and driven economy, where the abolition of poverty was the ultimate prize.

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