North Yorkshire devolution deal is an historic moment but who could take up the challenge as mayor? - Mark Casci

The region could have been given no greater gift on Yorkshire Day than the news that, after such a long wait, devolution is finally coming to North Yorkshire.

Deals to elect mayors in both the South and West of the region have already been signed into law but the deal for the North Riding has been one that has been incredibly hard earned.It has involved a complete restructure of the way local Government is administered in the region and will see a newly created combined authority across the region.

By May 2024, a directly elected mayor will be in post to oversee this historic shake up that will see £540 million transferred to the region over the next 30 years.

The deal is also historic in that it is the first one that truly involves rural localities, a sharp contrast from the more urban-focused deals that have previously been struck.

Devolution is finally coming to North Yorkshire.

I have long argued, in these pages and elsewhere, that devolution is more important for North Yorkshire than anywhere else in the north.

As empowering as it is for places like the city regions around Sheffield and Leeds to be devolved, these locations were always going to be successful owing to the powerful tech, professional services and manufacturing sectors that operate from them.

For York and North Yorkshire however, a nuanced and tailored approach is all that will suffice with a devolved mayoralty the only means of achieving this.

She or he must bring together a unique geography and economy.

The region will have a mayor by 2024.

The mayor’s office will oversee by far the largest landmass of any mayor in the country, taking in the two cities of York and Ripon, numerous market towns - some of which are several hours drive apart - a raft of coastal communities and then vast swathes of rural landscapes, ranging from moorland to rolling dales.

It will of course be a challenging task. As beautiful as North Yorkshire is, it is home to more than a handful of challenges.

Firstly, the region faces a serious risk of losing out on its younger generations owing to the scarcity of homes.

Young people, most of whom want nothing more than to remain in the town or village they grew up in, are moving elsewhere due to the lack of housing stock.

The growing preponderance of second homes and houses being used as holiday lets may be wonderful for people availing themselves of them from elsewhere but for the communities they are based in it is an ever expanding nightmare. Tackling this issue head on with a multi- generation plan has to be at the top of any prospective candidate’s manifesto.

Secondly, whoever is elected needs to have a deep understanding of North Yorkshire’s unique economy. He or she must be equally at ease with attracting inward investment from tech firms and dealing with York’s large corporations as they are with speaking to dairy farmers in the Yorkshire Dales or food and drink producers in the Yorkshire Wolds.

They will also need to augment and modernise the region’s first class tourism sector in a manner which is sustainable.

And thirdly, as the economy accelerates towards net zero, he or she has to ensure North Yorkshire becomes the national capital for carbon capture and renewable energy, whilst simultaneously ensuring that rural properties and businesses themselves become greener dwellings.

It all might sound a daunting task but I am convinced that the region already has the calibre of candidates to do the job.

I believe that Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake would make an outstanding mayor for the region and I have similar faith that Helen Simpson, the chair of the region’s local enterprise partnership has the knowledge-base to lead the county effectively.

These two names are mere speculation on my part of course but the wider point is that the talent is there to deliver for North Yorkshire.

Congratulations to the whole county on this historic moment finally coming to fruition.

As someone who grew up in the county, I am very proud and will be cheering you on every step of the way.