West Yorkshire’s Mayor, Tracy Brabin, was quizzed by a senior business audience in Leeds recently.
Members and guests of West Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce posed questions to the Mayor on political and economic affairs at a lunch hosted by Leeds Chamber President, Mike Briffett. The Mayor, in office since May 2021, reviewed business and political events in West Yorkshire and nationally over the last 18 months, and praised attendees for their “magnificent spirit” in standing up to the difficulties of the last few years, citing Brexit, Covid, the Ukraine war and cost of living as major issues testing their resilience and fortitude.
Acknowledging that the political uncertainty in Westminster is also currently adding to the nervousness being felt by the business community, Tracy pledged to do all she could to make West Yorkshire the ‘heart of the North’ in terms of business excellence, economic achievement and tourism and leisure opportunities. When it came to questions, transport concerns led the way.
Reduced public transport fares for apprentices and poorly paid healthcare workers were among the first appeals; while others called for a West Yorkshire transport system comparable to the best in Europe, citing cities like Berlin as great examples. Delegates also raised fears for the future of the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda and prospects for further devolved powers. Businesses and the Mayor both agreed it was important for the sub-region to “talk as one voice” wherever possible, even though it was widely accepted that West Yorkshire is very polycentric.
In the latest of several recent meetings at which the Mayor and the Chamber’s Chief Executive, James Mason, have both spoke, the Chamber boss said the business community simply wanted to help Tracy deliver on her objectives, while the former MP said the Chamber was crucial to her ability to do that.
Leeds Chamber President, Mike Briffett, said afterwards:
“It’s important that we invite key politicians like the Mayor to events like this, to give our members the opportunity to put their views and ask questions – to hold them to account, if you like. Tracy is clearly engaging with businesses in various ways and we can help facilitate that and also work closely with her to push for changes to advance Leeds and West Yorkshire even further forward.”
The lunch followed Leeds Chamber’s annual election meeting, which brought new figures onto some of its policy development groups.