Did you know that
– the Leeds City Region has an economy bigger than Wales.
– that Leeds has one quarter of the region’s population and 30% of its jobs,
– that 19% of Leeds’ jobs are in the knowledge-based economy
– that Leeds has the second largest financial and business services hub in the UK?
However, the recession had a huge impact on Leeds – an impact compounded by the Coalition’s cuts to local government funding.
It’s at times like this that a Labour council makes a difference.
The council’s actions over the last years have created significant growth and 15,000 new jobs.
The last year, for example, has seen the opening of both Trinity Leeds and the First Direct Arena, as well as announcements of huge planned investment into Kirkgate Market.
The Flood Alleviation Scheme looks especially timely after the wet winter. The £44 million planned here will play its own part in fuelling the Leeds economy. The first phase at Woodlesford has started. The second will begin later this year.
Alongside these, the development of the South Bank area and Holbeck Urban Village is now being kick-started in conjunction with plans for the HS2 station and overall ambitions of improved connectivity from the city centre to more outlying areas.
The Arena is an example of the sort of growth which comes with projects like these. As a result of it alone, 205 construction jobs were safeguarded or created. And thanks to the Labour Council’s scheme to require apprenticeships in return for local authority contracts, 90 apprenticeships were created. More than 70 Leeds businesses were contracted to do the work. And that’s before you start to count the benefits to tourism and leisure industries it generates.
Another major development with huge potential is the Aire Valley Enterprise Zone. It covers a total of 142 hectares of prime development land. When it is fully developed, the Zone has the potential to deliver up to 9,500 jobs and offers access to a thriving regional economy, well- established supply chains and markets across the UK. The Zone is clearly crucial to driving economic growth and employment creation across the city region.
So although the recession has had a major impact on development in Leeds, the Council’s actions have played a significant part in the city’s recovery.
There is, however, still much to do to maximise the impact across the whole of the city and for this, the Council’s leadership is crucial.
Cllr Richard Lewis, Executive Member for Development and Economy, said: “There is so much going on in Leeds at the moment that presents a hugely positive story for our city. I am confident that the work that has been completed to date and that will be completed will do nothing but promote Leeds as a strong, thriving and vibrant city for businesses, residents and visitors alike. I am proud of the work the Council is doing to take the lead in major development and regeneration schemes and I look forward to us doing even more.”
What all this shows, of course, is the need for infrastructural investment during a recession – a lesson the LibDem/Tory Coalition has been reluctant to learn.
What it also demonstrates is the need to bring economic control, and control of the resources necessary for growth, back from London to the local level.
It is here in Leeds that we know what is needed to develop Leeds.
And that is something for which Leeds Labour Council under Keith Wakefield has been pushing hard to achieve.
The sooner the Coalition realises this, and reverses the centralisation of resources and power, the better – for Leeds and for all of us.
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