Why West Yorkshire metro mayor election matters – Ben Still

ON May 6, 2021, residents of West Yorkshire will be able to vote for the first ever mayor of West Yorkshire.

Voters in Leeds and West Yorkshire are preparing to elect the area's first metro mayor.
Voters in Leeds and West Yorkshire are preparing to elect the area's first metro mayor.

In the coming days, every household in the region will receive a booklet explaining what the mayor will do and containing a ‘‘mini-manifesto’’ from each of the seven candidates standing for election.

The 24-page guide includes information on the role of the mayor and the West Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, and on how to vote.

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The mayor of West Yorkshire will have a similar role to the mayors of Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and other metropolitan areas in England with devolution deals.

This was Rishi Sunak with West Yorkshire's then council leaders after signing the area's devolution deal following the March 2020 Budget.

This will bring West Yorkshire greater influence within government at national level, including on economic recovery, the power to shape government policy and access further funding.

The election of the mayor has been made possible through a devolution deal, which was agreed by West Yorkshire’s five council leaders and the Government in March 2020 and became law in January 2021.

The deal incorporates findings from a public consultation carried out last summer, the largest public consultation on English regional devolution.

The devolution deal will bring at least an additional £1.8bn public investment into local control over the next 30 years.

Bradford will come under the auspices of West Yorkshire's new metro mayor.

It also means that more decisions about transport, skills, housing and regeneration, which are currently taken in Parliament will be made in West Yorkshire.

The mayor will be a figurehead for the region, working with the Mayoral Combined Authority, council leaders, business representatives and partners to prioritise issues that really matter to people and communities in the region.

They will have specific powers including the power to draw up a Local Transport Plan to improve connectivity across the region.

Their housing and land acquisition powers will support housing, regeneration, infrastructure, and community development.

The election of the mayor will also change the way police and crime matters are overseen in West Yorkshire.

The mayor will take on the functions of the Police and Crime Commissioner and will be able to set the objectives for the police force through a police and crime plan, and appoint and hold the Chief Constable to account.

They will also work closely with communities to ensure that residents’ views and priorities on community safety issues inform the police and crime plan.

The mayor will also be a member of the Mayoral Combined Authority and chair its meetings and a member of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Board.

This means that they will be able to bring together partners across the region to drive clean and inclusive growth to ensure investments are prioritised in a way that makes a real difference to the people of West Yorkshire.

Government is expected to launch the Recovery and Devolution White Paper and finalise its latest national planning reforms later this year. These proposals may set out additional functions for the mayor of West Yorkshire.

As we emerge from the pandemic, having a mayor will help us meet our regional challenges and shape our future.

To vote and have your say on who will make these important decisions affecting the whole of West Yorkshire, you must be on the electoral register.

The deadline to register to vote in the West Yorkshire Mayoral Election is Monday, April 19.

If you are not able to vote in person at a polling station, you can apply to vote by post or you can vote by proxy and nominate someone else to vote on your behalf.

Local Returning Officers across the region are working with the Electoral Commission to put in place additional safety measures to make sure that polling stations will be safe places to vote.

More information on the upcoming election is available by visiting your local council website or www.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/becoming-a-mayoral-combined-authority.

Ben Still is chief executive of West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

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