North Yorkshire mayoral election: Where do the candidates differ?
Last updated Apr 19, 2024

As the race to become York and North Yorkshire’s first mayor heats up, candidates have outlined their pledges and promises.

The six candidates contesting the election have published manifestos and pledges which range from the economy to climate change.

Some are eye catching, while others are modest.

The mayor will have an investment fund of £18 million per year, which will go towards powers such as transport, housing and skills.

As candidates go into their last week of campaigning, we look at their pledges and analyse where they differ from each other.

Grand Hotel

Conservative candidate Keane Duncan has unveiled ambitious promises as part of his campaign.

These range from free car parking to introducing facial recognition cameras in North Yorkshire to help tackle crime.

But perhaps his most eye catching pledge is to purchase the Grand Hotel in Scarborough, which first opened in 1867, in order to restore it.

Mr Duncan admitted in a press release that the plan was “radical” and that he would use new mayoral funding to purchase the hotel.

He added that, while he was keen to agree a sale price, he would resort to compulsory purchase powers if necessary.

Keane Duncan

The mayor will have the power to compulsory purchase land for development. However, the mayoral investment fund, which could be used for the project, only extends to £18 million.

The project raises questions over how exactly the hotel would be paid for, what the price would be and how much the regeneration would cost.

Mr Duncan’s pledge echoes that of a similar project carried out by Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, and the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

In 2018, Mr Houchen and the combined authority purchased Durham Tees Valley Airport for £40 million in order to bring it back into public ownership and prevent it being sold for housing.

Railway stations

Among the various pledges included in Felicity Cunliffe-Lister’s 26-page manifesto is a pledge to lobby for a new railway station at Flaxby.

The promise is unique as no other candidate has mentioned the station specifically.

The Lib Dem candidate’s support for Flaxby Parkway has its roots in a long running saga over the need for a station in the area, which developers Flaxby Park Ltd promised in 2018.

The topic was at the centre of a debate for a new 3,000 home settlement in the Harrogate district, which was subject of a High Court appeal in 2020. The former Harrogate Borough Council later settled instead on an area in Hammerton and Cattal, which will be called Maltkiln.

Felicity Cunliffe-Lister

Ms Cunliffe-Lister made the pledge as part of a wider need for “faster and more reliable service across the north”.

Lobbying for the station would be the extent of her power, should she be elected mayor.

However, funding and business cases for some stations have been secured through partnerships between local authorities and developers. 

Recently, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Leeds City Council and developer Munroe K secured £26.5 million worth of funding for a station at the White Rose centre in Leeds.

Paul Haslam, who is standing as an independent candidate, has also called for a new station at Claro Road in Harrogate and Mr Duncan, the Conservative candidate, has called for Haxby station to reopen.

The mayor themselves does not have any power to build new stations.

However, as the figurehead of the region’s combined authority, she would have the power to lobby the Department for Transport, local authorities and other government agencies, such as Network Rail, to consider such a project.

Meanwhile, both Mr Haslam and Ms Cunliffe-Lister have also made pledges for a single transferrable ticket on transport across North Yorkshire – which the mayor could include in their transport strategy.

Mayor funds

Both the Labour Party and Green Party have pledged to create mayoral funds to help businesses in York and North Yorkshire.

Creating funds for businesses would likely come from the mayoral investment fund, which will be £18 million for the next financial year.

Labour’s David Skaith has pledged a high street fund, while Kevin Foster of the Green Party has promised an innovation fund.

Read more:

Mr Skaith’s announcement included a promise to provide access to support for high street businesses. However, it appears to stop short of putting a figure on how much money would be available.

Meanwhile, Mr Foster said his fund would see £1 million allocated from the mayor’s budget for the next financial year.

Such a move would require discussions with combined authority officials, as Mr Foster acknowledged to the Stray Ferret in a recent interview.

Both pledges would also require support from the combined authority board, as would any proposal drawn up by the mayor.

A59 compensation

The closure of the A59 at Kex Gill has been a contentious issue, not least due to the complaints of business owners on their trade.

Keith Tordoff, the Pateley Bridge-based independent candidate, has sought to capitalise on the issue.

Among his many pledges, he has promised a compensation fund for businesses on the A59.

He said the money would come from wealthy people, businesses and charities in order to invest in the region and would be separate from the £18 million investment fund.

While the closure at Kex Gill is a matter for North Yorkshire Council, such a move from the mayor would need support from the combined authority board – including the two members from North Yorkshire Council.

Photo: Mayoral candidates (clockwise, from top left) Keane Duncan, David Skaith, Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, Paul Haslam, Kevin Foster and Keith Tordoff.