The other night I put a question to twitter:
“The 'Leeds City Region' - good for Bradford, bad for Bradford or makes no difference?”
I received responses to this question from @simonmagus (who went on to write a blog on the subject), @them_apples, @adamhepton, @bradfordodeon, @hiddenbradford, @bd_angry and @poddi.
The main points seemed to be:
- Bradford is not in Leeds
- Does the Leeds 'brand' overshadow that of the rest of Yorkshire?
- More joined up thinking
- Good if it brings more money into Bradford
- Yorkshire means something to everyone in the city region, Leeds doesn't
So, what is a city region?
A city region is a grouping of local authorities who work together to make decisions on big projects, like transport and to bring together the public and private sector to work together to deliver regeneration projects and pursue economic growth. City regions first formally appeared in Northern England as a result of John Prescott's baby 'The Northern Way'. The idea of this initiative was to seek to reduce the gap between Northern England and the south east, and for England to have successful cities outside of the capital – like Toulouse in France, Munich in Germany or Milan in Italy. The demise of regional governance brought in by the coalition government has lead to city regions getting more power in the form of the 'city deal'.
Where is Leeds City Region?
The City Region covers the local authories of West Yorkshire (Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield), as well as Selby, York, Harrogate, Craven and Barnsley. Barnsley also sits within the Sheffield city region. There is a strong view from people in Bradford that they are not Leeds. One imagines that people in somewhere like Masham (Harrogate District), Ingleton (Craven) or Walsden (Calderdale) would feel the same, or people in the ancient city of York.
Would West Yorkshire City Region be a better name?
West Yorkshire, as we've known it since 1974 includes the five districts that make up the old Metropolitan County, but doesn't include districts like Harrogate. But all the places in the Leeds City Region were historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire and I'm sure the residents of all the area could identify with being in Yorkshire and not Leeds.
Is the Leeds thing just a name?
Investment in the city region will be bringing things like superfast broadband to Bradford, supporting the and a billion pounds to be spent on transport and highways across the city region area. But Leeds is getting the Trolleybus scheme and the enterprise zone in the east of the city. Leeds is of course the biggest city, with the biggest economy out of all the districts, but one could be forgiven that the Leeds name, is mainly a positive thing for Leeds but not the other nine districts.
How does the Leeds-Bradford relationship compare with those in other city regions?
Bradford – with a population of half a million is by far the biggest 'junior partner' in all of the Northern England city regions, not to mention there are five cities in the Leeds City region (Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Ripon and York). This compares to two cities in Manchester city region and two in the Tyne/Wear city region and one or none in the others. The Leeds City Region seems to be a much bigger area than the other ones, the City Region website boasts it is the second biggest city region outside of the capital. Leeds does not sit seem to sit comfortably at the centre of a city region like Sheffield or Manchester do... and I wonder how many Mackems would be happy at being part of the Newcastle city region. I think West Yorkshire is the way to go on this one!
So the answer to the question is:
The city region itself is not a bad thing, it helps bring money into the city of Bradford. It is just the name, that
a) it makes it a harder thing to sell to local businesses
b) it diminishes the pride of Bradford, as well as Wakefield and York, and;
c) Potentially helps reinforce the gap between the Leeds economy and the rest, rather than helping the rest catch up and helping the local area as a whole capture more growth.
I don't think its a parochial thing to stand up for the city the size of Bradford. I think there is a far more compelling argument for the Leeds city region to have a name reflecting a wider area, than the likes of Manchester or Liverpool.