A FORMER Government spy base analyst has been unveiled as the first bishop of what will be the largest Church of England diocese.

The Right Reverend Nick Baines, who is also known as The Blogging Bishop, has been nominated as Bishop of Leeds, overseeing the new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.

The diocese, which spans from Barnsley to North Yorkshire and parts of County Durham, replaces the dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds, and Wakefield on Easter Sunday as part of a drive to cut costs by £800,000 and communicate better across the region.

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Bishop Baines will be supported by four area bishops for Ripon, Wakefield, Bradford and Huddersfield.

Speaking at a welcome ceremony in Ripon Cathedral, Bishop Baines said he would continue writing his blog, Musings Of A Restless Bishop, which he has used to comment on a range of issues, including some relating to GCHQ, where he worked during the Cold War.

Whilst employed there as a Russian linguist he had to "explore and understand the politics of a complicated world and know what was going on in that world".

The 56-year-old said at that time he would never have imagined that he would become a bishop covering a 2,425sq mile area of the North.

Bishop Baines, an ardent Bob Dylan fan, said: "There was no game plan. I always believed you had to be obedient to God's call.

"When I first visited the Yorkshire Dales it hadn't occurred to me that it would be part of the country where you couldn't get broadband.

"People think rural - nice view, but I have done a lot with farming communities and know the hidden problems such as lack of access to services. There are challenges everywhere.

"Dissolving three dioceses is a pretty big shake-up. We have to make sure we shake up what needs to be shaken up and preserve what needs to be preserved."

Attending the ceremony, North Yorkshire County Council chairman Councillor Bernard Bateman said when he and billionaire Ripon businessman Paul Sykes had been interviewed by the Prime Minister's office over who should take the role, they had recommended Bishop Baines, partly due to his communications skills.

Bishop Baines said he intended to use social media such as Twitter to reach out across the diocese and "make people feel like they are connected, even if they are not sitting together".

He added: "You can create a community in a different way. There are important things in life, like where Liverpool are in the league."