Election of Tracy Brabin can be a defining moment for West Yorkshire - Andy Wood

THE election of Tracy Brabin, as West Yorkshire’s first-ever and England’s first female metro mayor, is an incredibly significant and potentially defining moment for our region.

Already recognised by the Government, blue chip businesses and major institutions – the most recent being The Bank of England – as THE natural Northern hub, West Yorkshire now has a dynamic, high-visible leader to advocate its cause nationally and internationally.

Naturally, our new mayor will work collaboratively with the Local Enterprise Partnership and Combined Authority to ensure West Yorkshire’s economy continues to navigate a successful path out of the pandemic.

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Encouragingly, during her election campaign Tracy Brabin made inclusive growth and job creation a top priority – particularly among young people and minority ethnic communities.

Tracy Brabin has become West Yorkshire's first ever metro mayor.

As a local MP in Yorkshire, she will be well aware of the opportunity we have in low carbon, digital, advanced manufacturing and, of course, financial services sectors, to take a leadership position over the next decade.

While I do feel excited and incredibly positive about the potential for the local economy, I believe our new mayor will have to tread carefully in how she deals with the Government.

Clearly, after last week’s be-election success in Hartlepool and in the mayoral election in Tees Valley, where Conservative Ben Houchen took more than 70 per cent of the vote, the Tories now have much more than a passing interest in the North.

So far Leeds has been a big winner out of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda – the new Infrastructure Bank and Department for Transport hub are key proof points – and for me, the mayor must ensure Leeds retains its status as the ‘go-to’ Northern city.

As she sits down today at her desk, Mayor Brabin, a Labour politician, will need to decide the style of her leadership and importantly how she deals with a confident and assertive Conservative Government.

She may want to glance over the Pennines to Greater Manchester and learn from Andy Burnham, whose high-profile spat with Boris Johnson over the Covid tier system continues to reverberate.

Many leaders there privately feel that Greater Manchester is on the Government’s “naughty step” for not doing as it was told, and is now missing out on investment and north-shoring initiatives.

It’s a fine line, and she will need to pick her battles wisely, while ensuring Whitehall knows she is someone they can work with in a positive and collaborative way.

It will be fascinating to see how she will deal with the Government over the coming months and years, but today, we wish her all the best as she embarks on the journey to now deliver on her progressive and inclusive agenda for West Yorkshire.

Andy Wood is Yorkshire Managing Partner at Grant Thornton