York and North Yorkshire elect very first mayor


Nouse attended the York and North Yorkshire mayoral count in Harrogate, speaking to candidates, counters and party agents as the event unfolded

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By Antonia Shipley

On 2 May 2024, York and North Yorkshire took to the polls to elect their first ever mayor. The Mayor will chair the York and North Yorkshire Combined authority, taking on the responsibilities of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner. The Mayor will possess powers over transport, housing, adult education, policing and securing land development.

The mayoral investment fund is worth £540 million over 30 years, as a result of a devolution deal struck between The City of York Council, The North Yorkshire County Council and central government in 2022.

Six candidates took part in the bid for the Mayoral position: Conservative candidate, Keane Duncan, Labour candidate, David Skaith, Liberal Democrat, Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, Green candidate, Kevin Foster, and two independents, ex-Conservative councillor Paul Haslam and Keith Tordoff.

Nouse attended the mayoral count at the Harrogate convention centre on 3 May 2024. The Chief Executive of North Yorkshire Council and returning officer for the election, Richard Filton, emphasised the importance of this election to us:  “this new devolution deal that we’ve been able to pull together will make sure that the politicians in Westminster understand the issues that we want”

The total voter turnout across the region was announced at 11:30AM and was 28.89% across the region, somewhat similar across other regions electing metro mayors. Speaking to Independent candidate and ex Conservative, Paul Haslam, before results were announced, he expressed surprise the turnout, believing it to be “relatively high” and “expecting it to have been around 15% like previous PFCC elections”, he also outlined how he thought this higher turnout could “work in Labour’s favour”. When asked about what he thought about the relative success of Independents in council elections across the country he joked “I’m actually worried I may be letting the side down!”. He stated that his biggest achievement in the race was “getting my ideas out there, in the (conservative) party I found my ideas got suppressed, I don’t mind idea being rejected and modified, but what I don’t like is my ideas not seeing the light of day” he continued to say “I was really able to express my ideas, and my manifesto was one of the most comprehensive and first out on on the block, and that was critical for me”.

Nouse spoke to Green Candidate, Kevin Foster prior to the result who said “I hope we can at least get our deposit back, we’re a small party, we don’t take large donations, we refuse them, but if you look at what we (the party) spend per vote, we really get bang for our buck”, when asked about what electoral success in the region could mean for the Green Party he said “it means governments to come will look at us and say ‘they’re still coming’ and stop U-turning as both parties have been doing”.

Independent candidate Keith Tordoff also stated his dissatisfaction with the two main parties, when asked what he thought about the prospect of a Labour or Conservative candidate getting elected he stated “I don’t think it will be good as the tribalism between the City of York Council and North Yorkshire Council will continued, people have told me they’d want a Labour Mayor for York and Conservative for North Yorkshire so hopefully people can see that they need an independent” he also enunciated he was “feeling confident, I’m the only candidate whose been to all the Hustings and I hope that the people have seen that I’m the only candidate planning to serve the politicians and not the parties”.

Speaking to Liberal Democrat candidate, Felicity-Cunliffe Lister, she said she felt “we’ve made some really good progress in the party, especially at the grass-roots level”, she also delineated how she thought that the results for Lib Dems nationally had “given us (the party) a really good ground” and she was proud of the “grassroots campaigning in the region”.

The results began to be announced at 2:25PM, which were primarily for North Yorkshire and York  respectively before being collated. The results for North Yorkshire saw Liberal Democrat, Felicity Cunliffe with 24,922, Conservative Keane Duncan receiving the highest number of 44,794 and Labour’s David Skaith with 41,122, creating a palpable tension throughout the room, Green candidate, Kevin Foster, secured 11,579, Independent Paul Haslam, received 10,013 and Tordoff, 10,707.

The hall was taut with uncertainty and anticipation as the collated results were duly announced, Cunliffe-Lister received a total of 30,867, Duncan received 51,967, Foster received 15,188, Haslam received 12,370, Tordoff’s total was 13,250 and Skaith secured 66,761 votes in total, meaning a prodigious victory for the Labour and Co-Operative candidate of over 15,000 votes. The room swelled with celebratory cheers and exclamations from the Labour team, with vociferous applause and celebration upon the announcement. The new mayor, Labour and Co-operative party candidate, David Skaith, took to the stage magnanimously, characterised by his well known soigné. Born in Harrogate, Skaith stated his pride in being elected in his home-town and devoted the speech to those who were integral in the election; “thank you so much to everyone who has helped me in this campaign, we’ve had hundreds of people out every single day across the region and I thank every single one of you alongside my wife Alison, children and amazing staff and agent” he went on to say “I think we have a great opportunity to bring York and North Yorkshire together and really grow as one collectively” before finishing with “The message is clear from York and North Yorkshire and across the country that we want change, I believe with the Labour party and Keir Starmer this will only continue”.

Amongst the entropy, Nouse spoke to Green candidate, Kevin Foster, following the announcement, who said he was “relieved we got our deposit back so we can fight again” and claimed “had we not had a Green candidate I would have voted for David Skaith, we need to know support him (Skaith) going forward together and look to the future for our young people”.

Speaking to the Conservative candidate, Keane Duncan, he told us: “I’m inevitably disappointed but we fought a fantastic campaign, we’ve reached every single community, I’ve met people from all backgrounds, all walks of life”  and when asked about the future of the Conservatives stated “the worst thing we can do is hide away, we need to get out there and seek confidence”

Nouse spoke to Leader of the City of York Council Leader and councillor for Heworth, Claire Douglas, who had been central in Skaith’s campaign, for some concluding remarks, she said: “this is massive, it just shows you what the national swing is, a victory in Rishi Sunak’s backyard and David is absolutely the right person to lead the region”

If you're interested in hearing from Skaith, head over to the YSTV Youtube channel where Nouse interviewed the new Mayor before the election.