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The City of Wakefield ( ) is a local government district of West Yorkshire, Englandmarker, with the status of a city and metropolitan borough. In addition to Wakefieldmarker, the district's administrative centre, the city covers a wider area which encompasses other towns. The "Five Towns" commonly grouped together are Normantonmarker, Pontefractmarker, Featherstonemarker, Castlefordmarker and Knottingleymarker. Other towns include Ossettmarker, Hemsworthmarker, South Kirkby & Moorthorpemarker and South Elmsallmarker. It lies between Leedsmarker and Sheffieldmarker. Wakefield is ranked as the 88th largest city in the European Union.


Economy

In recent years, the economic and physical condition of several of the former mining towns and villages in Wakefield District have started to improve due to the booming economy of Leedsmarker - and an increase in numbers of commuters to the city from the sub-region - and a recognition of undeveloped assets. For instance Castlefordmarker, to the North East of Wakefield is seeing extensive development and investment because of the natural asset of its outlook on to the River Airemarker, its easy access to the national motorway network and the availability of former mining land for house-building. In Ossett, house prices have risen from an average of £50,000 in 1998 to £130,000 in 2003.

Although unemployment was amongst the highest in the country for most of the 1980s and 1990s, Wakefield District now has below-average unemployment. The "Wakefield East" ward had 4.7% unemployment in May 2005 (source: Office for National Statistics) - which was more than 1% higher than any other ward. The eastern half of the district remains considerably less prosperous than the western half, with several deprived wards

History

The district is mainly made out of old coal-mining towns, although other industries include wool, chemicals, machine tools, glass and other forms of manufacturing. Horburymarker is something of an anomaly in having had a large steel works. When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 there were 21 pits in the district. By the time the 1984 Strike began this had decreased to 15, however it still had more colleries than another district in the country. At the time of privatisation in November 1994, only two remained: the Prince of Wales at Pontefract, which closed in 2002, and Kellingley at Knottingley which is now the sole remainder of the industry that once dominated the district. Most of the district's pits had been very hardline during the 1984 strike.

The former Borough of Wakefield was raised to city status by letters patent in 1888. It became a county borough in 1913, taking it out of the jurisdiction of the West Riding County Council.

The present boundaries were set in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972, when the county borough of Wakefield merged with the West Riding municipal boroughs of Castlefordmarker, Ossettmarker and Pontefractmarker, the urban districts of Featherstonemarker, Hemsworthmarker, Horburymarker, Knottingleymarker, Normantonmarker and Stanleymarker, along with Wakefield Rural District and parts of Hemsworth Rural Districtmarker and Osgoldcross Rural Districtmarker. The new metropolitan district's city status was reconfirmed by letters patent in 1974.

Local government

The Council's main headquarters are County Hallmarker, originally built for the West Riding County Council and acquired by Wakefield in 1989.

The district is divided into 21 wards and each is represented on the district council by three councillors. Each councillor is elected on a first past the post basis, normally for a four-year period which is staggered with the other councillors of that ward so that only one councillor per ward is up for election at any one time. Exceptions to this include by-elections and ward boundary changes.

The city was the safest Labour council in England in 2003, but there has been a huge swing against Labour in recent years. After the 2008 election results the Labour Party had a majority of just one. However the recent death of Labour councillor Graham Phelps means that the authority is now in No Overall Control.

The table below summarises the results of the 2008 local government election. Each party is ordered by number of votes registered.

  • Tables exclude the death of Labour Councillor Graham Phelps on 18 November 2009


Social aspects

Crime is generally lower in this district than in the rest of West Yorkshire. Other problems typical of such an area include rates of suicide that are consistently amongst the highest in the country and a heroin problem that saw addiction rise by an incredible 3361% between 2000 and 2004.

A decision was made, in 2004, to transfer the district's extensive council housing to Wakefield and District Housing (WDH), an 'independent' housing association, who would be more efficient with repairs and maintaining decent accommodation; as council housing represented almost 30% of the district, this was the second-largest stock transfer in British history. WDH are investing over £700 million to regenerate the District and working with partners, such as WMDC, are investing in new housing within the District.

References


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