Leeds-based agencies have blasted the move by the body, which is designed to promote the city and its businesses. 'This is another nail in the coffin for Marketing Leeds,' said a source close to the pitch.
A separate source added: 'It is a surprising move given there is a strong and vibrant PR community in Leeds. Marketing Leeds is not abiding by its strapline "Leeds, Live it, Love it".'
However, the body's newly appointed agency claims Harrogate is within the city region. 'This is an area which includes Bradford, Halifax, Harrogate and Wakefield,' said Northern Lights founder Victoria Tomlinson. 'The Government's Northern Way strategy defined eight city regions as being critical to the economy – the Leeds city region is one of these.'
Two other agencies on the nine-strong shortlist were from Harrogate, she added.
Further criticism has been levelled at the connection between recently appointed chair Jan Fletcher and the winning agency, which has advised her during the past 12 years. 'It is not entirely fair,' said a source.
Fletcher was unavailable for comment as PRWeek went to press, but Tomlinson said she had withdrawn from the decision-making process.
Northern Lights replaces incumbent The Poulter Partners, which did not repitch.