MEMBERS of the region’s Chamber of Commerce have voted in favour of a merger with the Bradford Chamber.

The Leeds, York & North Yorkshire Chamber will now become the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce after members voted to join forces at an extraordinary general meeting held today.

The new enlarged chamber has been created in a moved aimed at build on its existing membership base and business support to become the fifth largest Chamber in the country.

The change will be effective from this week.

As part of the merger the current chief executive of the Leeds, York & North Yorkshire chamber Len Cruddas will be retiring.

Sandy Needham, who moves from being chief executive of Bradford Chamber to that of the new body, said of the move: “We’ve taken a bold step today, but one that we’re very confident and excited about.

“The great cities of Bradford, Leeds and York and the North Yorkshire area will have top-class representation and lobbying.

“The three presidents and committees will ensure the local business voice is heard and working together they will have a greater impact for companies when dealing with government ministers, senior civil servants and, increasingly, the Leeds City Region and in North Yorkshire.

“Members will benefit from across-the-patch networking and a wider range of services. We’ll ensure the transition is as seamless as possible and keep our focus on helping businesses of all sizes and sectors to be competitive and to grow.

“I’d like to thank members for backing the proposal in overwhelming numbers and the two Boards of Directors for their vision and hard work in creating the West and North Yorkshire Chamber.”

The three areas will retain their presidents and policy-making structures will be reviewed to increase the engagement of members at both local and combined area levels.

An advisory stakeholder panel is to be established to link with public sector partners such as the local authorities, universities and colleges and the Local Enterprise Partnerships. Chamber offices and staff will be retained in Bradford, Leeds and York.

Andrew Lindsay, the incoming chairman of the merged Chamber said: "I would like to thank Len Cruddas for his enormous contribution as chief executive of LYNY Chamber.

“He retires with the good wishes of all LYNY directors and members.

"I am looking forward to working with Sandy Needham who has an excellent reputation as a chamber chief executive and I know she is as excited about the opportunities for Chamber members that this merger brings, as I am.”