YP Letters: The problems of running a huge county

Should Yorkshrie have its own mayor?
Should Yorkshrie have its own mayor?
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From: Sir Peter Newsam, Church Lane, Thornton le Dale.

THE whole of Yorkshire is about the same size, in its population of over five million and in its economic strength, as the whole of Scotland.

Does anybody seriously suppose that a directly-elected mayor for the whole of Yorkshire would make more sense than a directly-elected one for the whole of Scotland? The must-have-a-mayor idea (Tom Richmond, The Yorkshire Post, May 8) is an absurd requirement of a past Chancellor of the Exchequer.

It was designed to ensure that devolution would be limited in scope. Fortunately, there is a better system to put in place of a regional mayor. Take the idea of the whole of Yorkshire as a region. This would require some form of regional council to deal with issues that run across local authority boundaries within the region.

That regional council need not be separately elected. It could be created by its constituent local authorities. Every local authority would elect councillors as it does now. It would be for those councillors to nominate one, in some cases perhaps two, of their members to serve on the provincial council.

The regional council could then reasonably claim to reflect the views of the local authorities within the region. Its standing orders should ensure that its committees, dealing with clearly defined regional responsibilities such as flood prevention and economic development, were managed by, for example, councillors from rural as well as from urban areas.

The details of a local authority-led regional system would need to be worked out, but the essential point is that mayors are an urban concept not a regional one. The leader of a regional council, appointed by the region’s constituent local authorities, would have more authority to speak for the region as a whole and be more accountable for doing so than any directly-elected mayor with separately defined powers.

Once elected, nobody, certainly not local councillors, have much hope of influencing such a person.

From: Ben Still, managing director, West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

THE letter from Paul Kirby (The Yorkshire Post, May 2) about the information provided about bus services at Leeds Bradford Airport highlights a broader issue about the powers public authorities have in this area.

In common with other areas outside London, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority is significantly constrained in the way it can influence bus routes, fares and timetables.

The Combined Authority neither sets bus fares nor controls when they change. This is controlled by the bus operators. Under the current system, any fare information provided at thousands of bus stops and shelters across the region would be at constant risk of change with the cost of updating each time potentially having to be met by West Yorkshire council taxpayers.

It is for reasons such as this that the Combined Authority continues to work to improve its partnership working with bus operators, encouraging them to publish fares information, and to make the case for the ability to intervene more directly in the provision of bus services, a critical part of our transport network and vital to our economic success.

The Yorkshire devolution proposals also touched upon the issue of re-franchising of the bus network which, no doubt, will be subject to more debate over the coming months.

In the meantime, the Combined Authority continues to work with Leeds Bradford Airport on opportunities to improve passenger information, including providing details of fares via the electronic screen in the arrivals hall and at the individual stops at the airport where changes could be made at little or no public cost.

Caught out by odd closures

From: Alec Denton, Guiseley.

FOR the second time recently we have been caught out by council closed days.

The first time was when we took visitors to Leeds on a Monday, only to find its world-class council-run attractions all closed. We now know not to go to Leeds on a Monday, but would a visitor?

The second disappointment was on Friday, May 4, when after your excellent write-up, we thought we would visit Shibden Hall to avoid roads closed for the Tour de Yorkshire.

Amazingly, and very disappointingly, we found that Friday is Shibden’s regular closed day – Halifax obviously likes to be different – and it will shortly also be closed for three months for filming.

These closures are very unhelpful for visitors attracted to Yorkshire by the wonderful scenery showcased by the Tour and it seems to me that, although it will cost, if we really want Yorkshire, other than York, to become an international visitor destination, then we need full-time and not part-time attractions.

Who gets to be green?

From: Lorraine Allanson, Rains Farm Holidays, Allerston, Pickering.

REFERRING to the recent letter by Simon Bowens, North East campaigner of Friends of the Earth, in which he excused himself for travelling to France on holiday using fossil fuels, basically because he has a large family.

Mr Bowens and FoE claim they want the UK to be totally fossil fuel-free by 2020.

Why should an advocate for a sustainable, fossil fuel-free and fully green future feel he is exempt from following his own ideology?

Mr Bowens claims that because his large family and associated luggage was too much for green transportation he used a six-seat, fossil fuel-built and powered car.

Does the responsibility to achieve a green utopia apply only to small families with big wallets?