Explained: How will North Yorkshire’s mayor work?
Last updated Mar 22, 2024
The six mayoral candidates.

The first mayor of York and North Yorkshire will be in charge of multi-million pounds of devolved money, have powers over transport and skills and be tasked with banging the drum for the county.

Six candidates from around North Yorkshire have put their names forward to campaign for the position.

But, despite an election being just six weeks away, enthusiasm for the mayor among the public appears low.

Part of this may be down to a lack of understanding over what a mayor does, how they make decisions and who will scrutinise them.

This week, the Stray Ferret spoke to James Farrar, director of economy and interim head of paid service at York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority, to clear up some of those questions.

How will decisions be made?

Perhaps one of the confusing aspects of devolution is the difference between the combined authority and the mayor.

Mr Farrar explained that the authority is the legal entity which holds the money given by government.

The mayor will chair the authority, meaning he or she will be responsible for ensuring that decisions on public money are made properly through the combined authority board.

Mr Farrar explained:

“In simple terms, the mayor becomes the chair of the combined authority.

“The combined authority is the legal entity, which is able to hold and manage the money and make the investments.”

James Farrar.

James Farrar

The mayor will have their own priorities, which they will be responsible for. But any decision will be put before the combined authority board.

For example, should the mayor want to set up a mayoral development corporation — which is an organisation set up to regenerate a defined area — it would need to be put before the board for approval.

The board itself will be made up of leaders and deputy leaders from both Conservative-controlled North Yorkshire Council and Labour-controlled City of York Council.

Any decision would need to be made by simple majority, but the mayor has to be on the “winning side”.

This, Mr Farrar says, will prevent any one side from “ganging up” on each other.

He said:

“The two local authorities cannot gang up on the mayor and do something that the mayor does not want to do. The mayor has always got to be on the supportive side of the vote.

“But, if an investment is in North Yorkshire then they also need North Yorkshire to support it. If it is based in York, then they would need York to support it.

“That’s the backstop that we have got to make sure we have that collaborative approach.”

How will the mayor be scrutinised?

Aside from the combined authority board, there are other committees which scrutinise the mayor’s decision making.

As a legal requirement, the body has an overview and scrutiny committee made up of other councillors from York and North Yorkshire from all political parties.

The committee will act as checks and balances on the mayor and combined authority’s activities.

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The mayor, who will be paid an £81,300 a year allowance, could also have their own staff.

They may also appoint a political advisor and communications officer.

Staff from the Office of the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner will also be transferred to support the mayor once they take on police and crime powers.

However, the mayor may wish to delegate those responsibilities to a deputy mayor.

Voters across North Yorkshire will go to the polls on May 2 to elect the first ever mayor of York and North Yorkshire.

A combined authority report published in January revealed that the election is set to cost taxpayers £2.2 million.

Voters have until midnight on April 16 to register to vote for the mayor.

Who is standing for mayor?

Pateley Bridge man and former police officer Keith Tordoff will stand as an independent.

The Green Party has chosen councillor and former soldier Kevin Foster as its candidate.

The Conservative Party has picked Malton councillor and ex-journalist Keane Duncan, who is currently in charge of transport at North Yorkshire Council.

Labour has chosen local business owner and chair of the York High Street Forum David Skaith.

Swinton Park owner Felicity Cunliffe-Lister will stand for the Liberal Democrats.

Harrogate resident and North Yorkshire councillor, Paul Haslam, will stand as an independent candidate after resigning from the Conservative Party.