Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
West Yorkshire’s first-ever mayoral election vote takes place on Thursday, May 6.
It will be the first time the region has ever had an elected mayor, and could give the region extra spending and decision-making powers.
But what does it all mean for you? Here’s a handy guide to everything to do with the new West Yorkshire Mayor!
What is happening and why?
As part of the devolution deal announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last year, West Yorkshire is set to be given increased powers of governance, and an extra £38m a year to do this.
The person overseeing this will be the elected mayor of West Yorkshire, covering the Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Wakefield and Kirklees boundaries.
The mayoral authority will not replace the individual councils, but will rather have certain powers over region-wide strategic projects and spending.
What can the mayor do?
Functions will include housing and planning, as well as powers to put together a “spatial development strategy”. It also includes housing and land acquisition powers to support regeneration and infrastructure development.
The mayor will be allowed to set a precept on council tax to fund mayoral functions. This is an extra payment placed on top of regular council tax, such as is currently used for police, fire and parish councils.
An elected mayor also has the power to draw up a local transport plans and strategies, the power to request local regulations requiring large fuel retailers to provide electric vehicle charging points. This will give the mayor bus franchising powers.
How will decisions be made?
Voting members on the mayoral authority will include the elected mayor, five elected members, one appointed by each of the five constituent
councils, as well as three elected members agreed by the constituent councils to reflect the balance of political parties across the combined authority area.
The committee will also include an elected member appointed by the city of York Council (which will remain as a non-constituent member of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority), as well as the chair of the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, which oversees large infrastructure projects in the region.
How can I vote?
You can cast your vote alongside your ballot for the local elections, so if you haven’t registered for postal voting, you should be able to go to the polling station listed on the polling card posted through your door.
I’ve heard the voting works differently to normal elections…
Yes, unlike the “first past the post” system used in local and general elections, the mayoral vote uses what is known as a “supplementary voting system”.
This basically means that you get to pick a first and second choice for who you want to be mayor. If one candidate gets more than 50 per cent of first choice votes, they will become mayor.
If no candidate gets more than 50 per cent, the two candidates with the most first choice votes will remain, while all others will be eliminated. The second choice votes will then be added up for the two remaining candidates will be added to the totals.
The candidate who then has the highest number of overall votes will be announced as the winner and declared Mayor of West Yorkshire.
The next mayoral vote will take place in 2024, after which the election will take place every four years.
Who are the candidates and what do the all say?
Seven candidates will be on the ballot paper. Below are some of the key points they have made in their campaign literature.
Wajid Ali – Reform Party
Reform Party candidate Wajid Ali has committed to tackling crime and homelessness, resisting any future plans for a congestion charge and “returning all freedoms” back to people. He said:
“I want to reboot the local economy and will campaign for tax cuts for the lowest paid, a council tax freeze and lowered business rates to support and encourage small businesses.”
Tracy Brabin – Labour
Among the promises from Labour Party candidate Tracy Brabin were commitments to creating 1,000 “well paid, skilled jobs for young people”, recruit 750 more police officers and bringing buses back under public control. She said:
“I’ll be a mayor that stands up for our communities and fights hard to make sure we get our fair share. I’ll step in where the government has failed and tackle the deep inequalities exposed by the pandemic.”
Bob Buxton – Yorkshire Party
The Yorkshire Party’s Bob Buxton says he would build greener homes on regenerated sites, while focussing on “defeating crime”, career-led adult education and pushing for a referendum on greater devolution for Yorkshire. He added:
“If elected, I will fight to deliver a West Yorkshire mass transit system to make sure no community is left behind. Labour councils have failed to deliver and the Tory government continues to make empty promises.”
Andrew Cooper – Green Party
Green Party candidate Andrew Cooper said committed to green refurbishments for existing houses, redeveloping brownfield sites, new apprenticeships for green jobs and more “community-led policing”. He added:
“A green mayor will make our town centres more appealing places to spend time – not just places to go shopping. I want to see sporting facilities improved and we will support our vital creative industries.”
Stewart Golton – Liberal Democrat
Liberal Democrat candidate Stewart Golton committed to having plans for “every high street”, as well as delivering training and skills for green jobs in construction, energy, farming and forestry. He added:
“We can’t afford to end up with a mayor that makes excuses for the poor performance of their mates in charge of parliament or local town halls. We need a strong champion that will push for real devolution.”
Therese Hirst – English Democrats
English Democrats candidate Therese Hirst committed in her literature to raising adult educational standards, building “person-centred” housing to help people’s mental and physical wellbeing, and “visible, impartial and apolitical policing”. She added:
“Choosing the right candidate who has the right skills and vision to address the enormous social and economic challenges we now face, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic, is now more important than ever.”
Matt Robinson – Conservative
Conservative candidate Matt Robinson has committed to creating apprenticeships with employers, more police with “extra powers and equipment like tasers”, and a more efficient public transport service. He added:
“It’s time to join up our public transport, so you can get a seat on a bus or train that runs on time. I’ll cut congestion for drivers, holding councils to account and getting extra government funds for roads.”
When will we have a new mayor?
While the vote will take place on Thursday, the actual counting of votes isn’t expected to happen until Sunday, May 9 due to Covid social distancing rules meaning fewer people will be able to count, and the local election counts taking place the previous day. It is expected we will know who our new mayor is on Sunday evening.