Bilton independent candidate leans on business experience in mayor campaign
Apr 18, 2024

Bilton resident Paul Haslam believes his extensive business experience stands him in good stead to be Mayor of York and North Yorkshire.

The Bilton and Nidd Gorge councillor was the last of six candidates to throw their hat into the ring to be the inaugural mayor.

Standing as an independent, Mr Haslam has centred his campaign around the economy and emphasised his business experience as his credentials.

Born in Lancashire before moving to Harrogate in 2006, he spent his career working for various businesses in retail management including New Look and Poundstretcher.

Mr Haslam set up his own consultancy firm, which specialises in areas such as change management, the circular economy and mergers and acquisitions. His clients have included Adidas and national supermarkets.

He was also chief executive of Leyland SDM, a London-based decorators’ merchants, which he helped to sell to Grafton Group in February 2018.

During an interview with the Stray Ferret, Mr Haslam pointed to this as an example of the experience he feels the mayor needs.

He said:

“One key things about this role is bringing private finance into York and North Yorkshire. The other thing that you have got to look at is what business clusters you are bringing in.”

Paul Haslam

Paul Haslam

Mr Haslam said the mayor needs to be able to help grow the economy and attract businesses to the county.

One area of business that has been of interest to him is food security. He said as mayor he would promote farms, food production and sectors such as agri-tech.

The topic has been included in his online manifesto, which includes pledges on affordable housing, tourism and adult education and skills.

He has also identified public transport as an area that he feels needs to be tackled.

One of the policies he has proposed is a single ticket for travel across North Yorkshire. As chair of Transport for the North’s scrutiny committee, he says he has pushed for such a ticket for five years:

“We have got to have this frictionless way of getting through.

“One of the other things is because we have different operators doing different things, compared to London it can make it up to four times more expensive to get the same distance here than it does in London because you’re changing operators.

“You can bring the cost of the tickets down by just having one ticket that goes right through.”

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Mr Haslam has also been a keen proponent of introducing new railway stations in areas such as Claro Road. He says the station would be a similar size to Hornbeam Park and would help to ease car journeys during rush hour.

Mr Haslam admits the scheme would be expensive, but believes it would be good value for money.

He said:

“It’s not just about putting a train station there, you’ve got to look at what it is going to do to Skipton Road for example.

“A lot of the people that live around Claro Road, whether it’s the Kingsley side or the Woodfield and Bilton side, actually work in Leeds every day. We have to accept that every day there is a mass exodus south out of Harrogate down to Leeds where people work.

“If you could get on the train there, you could go straight to work in Leeds.”

‘A step change’

Last month, Mr Haslam resigned the Conservative whip to stand for mayor.

As part of his campaign literature, he says that as an independent mayor he would be “free from party shackles”.

However, he faces the prospect of campaigning against established parties on the election trail.

When pressed on why specifically he decided to stand for mayor, he said he felt the role offered an opportunity for “a step change” in North Yorkshire:

“There are five other very capable candidates going for this role, but what I want to make sure is that all the things that I think are important get out there and see the light of day.

“Even if I’m not the one who implements those ideas at the end of the day, those ideas are out there.”

The York and North Yorkshire mayor will be chosen by residents of the region in an election on Thursday, May 2, 2024.

The full list of candidates is:

  • Keith Tordoff, independent
  • Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, Liberal Democrats
  • Keane Duncan, Conservative Party
  • David Skaith, Labour Party
  • Kevin Foster, Green Party
  • Paul Haslam, independent