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What are Wakefield and the five towns? – Part One; The City of Wakefield

18/08/2010

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The City of Wakefield is a local government district of West Yorkshire, England, with the status of a city and metropolitan borough. Wakefield is the district’s administrative centre. The district includes the “Five Towns” of Normanton, Pontefract, Featherstone, Castleford and Knottingley. Other towns include Ossett, Hemsworth, South Kirkby & Moorthorpe and South Elmsall. Wakefield lies between Leeds and Sheffield and is ranked as the 87th largest city in the European Union. In 2010, Wakefield was named as the UK’s third ‘most musical’ City by PRS for Music

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 Leeds – and an increase in numbers of commuters to the city from the sub-region – and a recognition of undeveloped assets. For instance Castleford, to the North East of Wakefield is seeing extensive development and investment because of the natural asset of its outlook on to the River Aire, its easy access to the national motorway network and the availability of former mining land for house-building.

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

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. Horbury 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.

History

The City of Wakefield MDC’s Queen Anne style administrative HQ, County Hall (1898), Wakefield

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 Castleford, Ossett and Pontefract, the urban districts of Featherstone, Hemsworth, Horbury, Knottingley, Normanton and Stanley, along with Wakefield Rural District and parts of Hemsworth Rural District and Osgoldcross Rural District. The new metropolitan district‘s city status was reconfirmed by letters patent in 1974. The Council’s headquarters are County Hall, originally built for the West Riding County Council and acquired by Wakefield in 1989.

Governance

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.

Source: Wikipedia 2010

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