North Yorkshire Set to Elect it's First Mayor


Zoha Nadeem reports the candidates standing to be the next mayor of North Yorkshire.

Article Image

Image by Benjamin Hopkins

By Zoha Nadeem

On Thursday 2 May 2024, Six candidates will stand in the local elections, all hoping to be for the first mayor of the York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority (YNYCA). The mayor will be supported by a councillor from each constituent council, the Chair of the York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority Business Committee, and an executive team of officers.
The role of the mayor will be to attract new investment, and create a long-term vision for the future of the regions. They will oversee the budgets for areas such as transport, housing, economic development, skills, and the police and fire service. Once elected, the York and North Yorkshire Mayor will serve a 4-year term, at which point they can choose to stand for re-election. The mayor of the two areas will lead an astounding investment of £540 million to be spent over the next 30 years - with efforts to bring in even more investment into the region to spend on things that will improve York and North Yorkshire.
On Wednesday 10 April 2024, the mayoral candidates’ debate took place. Each candidate delivered a 30 second manifesto, outlining how they plan on improving York and North Yorkshire.
Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, the Liberal Democrat candidate, outlined her priorities, “As your mayor, I will deliver change for the better, I’ll drive sustainable economic growth, I will demand a better deal for us all.” When asked about how the candidates will help North Yorkshire’s businesses, she said she would set out a strategy helping the rural sector with better transport as she believes that is what is primarily holding the area back. She also talked about how she would like to see more homes built in North Yorkshire, adding she would challenge issues around second home ownership - and push for more affordable homes in rural areas.
Independent candidate Keith Tordoff pledged “everyone will get a roof over their heads”. He also added that “all under-18s will travel for free” if he is elected mayor. Tordoff also promised he would go straight to the government and get a ‘better funding package’. He mentioned he wrote a book about reviving failing high streets, which he believes he can help with due to his experience in business.
Paul Haslam, another independent candidate, said he has a “proven track record in public service” in his manifesto. He aims to ‘ignite economic growth, boost job opportunities, deliver an integrated public transport system and provide sustainable, affordable housing. Audience members asked the candidates how they would support a thriving economy in North Yorkshire, to which Haslam said he would look at the farming industry as a priority, as well as food production and the tourism industry.
Green Party candidate Kevin Foster promises to ‘do things that are affordable and achievable’ in his manifesto. He said he would have a £1m fund for new businesses, in order to support the thriving economy in North Yorkshire. In regards to the housing crisis, Kevin Foster said 40% of houses should be affordable - he added that houses should have solar panels and insulation to cut bills.
Labour candidate David Skaith reveals he will build an integrated transport system and affordable homes if he is elected as mayor “so people can stay in the region that they love”. He promised to bring in an extra 13,000 police officers into the country, saying he wants to ‘champion our region and bring those officers here’. Skaith, who owns a shop in York, said he wants to "rejuvenate towns" by boosting transport to rural communities to help their economy.
Conservative mayoral candidate Keane Duncan also shared his plans if he were to become mayor: ‘half price homes for first time buyers, free car parking for every town and city, millions extra to fix our roads, new rail and bus routes, one pound fares for all under-22s’. His list of pledges also included ‘tough, visible policing…more apprenticeships, the region’s first mutual bank…’ Duncan also vows to purchase and restore the ‘infamous’ Grand Hotel in Scarborough. After his statement about the ‘half-price houses’, there were concerns from Labour candidate Skaith about how feasible this really is, mentioning the finite supply of money the elected mayor will have to tackle a range of issues across York and North Yorkshire.
When questioned about improving the A64 in York, all candidates expressed their interest in tackling the issue of congestion that arises on this busy road. With ongoing talks about dualling the A64, candidates Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, Keane Duncan and Paul Haslam have all expressed support for this investment. The others, however, argue that improving public transport would be a more effective measure to decrease traffic on the A64.
A city marred by a huge housing affordability crisis, York is in need of a significant number of new homes to be built in order to decrease the gap between wages and house prices. Data from the national office for statistics show an astonishing increase of £223,893 in the gap between average earnings and house prices in York in 25 years. In 1997, the median house price in York was £57,500, which is £41,998 more than the median workplace earnings at £15,502, whereas in 2023, the median house price was £300,000, which is £265,891 more than the median workplace earnings at £34,109. This staggering difference alludes to an economic divide, creating more hurdles in buying homes, especially for the next generation of homeowners. The new mayor of york would have to find a way to solve this problem for their people, otherwise homeless and social housing waiting lists will see an astronomical rise in this era of economic crises.
It's imperative that the public use their democratic right to vote next month to ensure the choice of choosing your Mayor remains in your hands. Elections will be held on Thursday 2 May 2024. More information about the candidates standing in this election can be found at the ‘York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority’ website.