James Alexander lays down York City Council's vision for city
THE leader of York's council has set out their vision for the city, feting his party's successes that have seen unemployment fall, and called for stronger devolved powers to let cities take control of their own economies.
James Alexander gave his now annual "state of the city" address last night to business and community leaders in the Mansion House, and spoke of plans to see the city's economy grow in coming years.
He used the event to issue a call for "adequate, meaningful and real localism", and backed the Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael's claim that devolution for England is "unfinished business".
The council leader said: "If we want the North to prosper, the people of the North need to make that choice themselves."
Cllr Alexander trumpeted success stories like the arrival of Hiscox as an employer in the city, new Park & Ride schemes, and the Super Connected City status.
York's unemployment levels sit at 1.3 percent, below the national average of 2.7 percent, while the number of young people of jobseekers allowance has fallen to just 1.6 percent, he said.
He also announced council plans to host a conference to show off York's digital infatstructure in a bid to attract more major employers to the city.
But the speech was not without negatives - the council leader acknowledged failures like the bid to bring the High Speed Rail College to York, and the difficulties in transforming adult social care in the city.
House building executives quizzed the council leader over plans to improve the city's infastructure by dualling the congested ring road.
Persimmon Homes' Simon Usher told him that while is was encouraging to hear ambitious plans for the city, building in York often faced difficulties in by objections from neighbours and other political parties.
The council leader responded, saying work on the ring road would have to take place in stages, when funding became available.
He said: "The council's annual budget is £128 million, and dualling the ring road would cost £350 million. Clearly we are not going to stop providing everything else. We can find other sources of funding from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, North Yorkshire, and through the local plan from developer contributions, but that adds up to around £90 million."
Any work would start in the north west corner, he added, progressing outwards as funding was found.
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