On May 6, over 1.8 million people will be eligible to vote in the inaugural election of the West Yorkshire Mayor. This is everything you need to know about the role, the candidates and how you can vote.
What is a combined authority mayor?
The West Yorkshire Mayor will be the directly elected leader of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which is made up of Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, and Wakefield. The mayor will have executive power and will make strategic decisions for the region. They will also chair meetings of the combined authority board where the five leaders of the constituent councils will decide how the powers and funding devolved from central government should be used.
Why is the region getting a mayor?
The position was introduced as part of the Government’s devolution agenda, which allows for regions in England to take powers from central government. The Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 states that for a combined authority to be given these powers, a combined authority mayor must be elected for the area. So far eight city-regions have combined authority mayors, representing nearly 12 million people.
The decision to devolve powers to combined authorities, which was made by former Prime Minister David Cameron as part of his ‘Northern Powerhouse’ policy, is intended to address the historic economic underperformance of English cities. The hope is that jobs, wages and quality of life in cities can be improved by devolving powers like transport and housing to a directly elected mayor operating at the scale of a local economy.
What powers will the mayor have?
The first mayor will initially be elected for a three-year term (subsequent mayors will serve a full four-year term) and will have control over transport, housing, land, and adult education. They will take over responsibility for policing and crime from the Police and Crime Commissioner and will also be able to set a precept on council tax and charge a business rate supplement subject to a ballot.
The West Yorkshire Combined Authority received £1.8 billion of long term funding from the devolution deal and the mayor will work with the combined authority board to decide how this should be spent, including the £38 million per year for 30 years that the region has been given to spend on local priorities.
The mayor’s approval will be needed for all decisions to be taken forward, though the board can overrule certain decisions with a two-thirds majority. Other conurbation-wide issues will require unanimous consent from the mayor and the board. The Labour Party currently controls all five of the constituent councils.
As the directly elected representative for 2.3 million residents in West Yorkshire, the mayor will also have symbolic power. This was demonstrated last autumn by Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, who brought national attention to the lack of financial support for areas in stricter Tier 3 lockdown restrictions and ultimately forced a change in policy.
Who are the candidates?
- Tracy Brabin (Labour)
- Bob Buxton (Yorkshire)
- Andrew Cooper (Green)
- Stewart Golton (Liberal Democrats)
- Matthew Robinson (Conservative)
Who can vote?
To be eligible to vote on May 6, you need to be registered to vote – the deadline to register is Monday 19 April 2021.
- You must be 18 or over on the day of the election
- You must be a British, Commonwealth or EU citizen
- You have to be resident at an address in one of the five constituent members of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority– Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, and Wakefield
- You are not legally excluded from voting
Students can choose to register to vote at both their home address and their term-time address. If your home and university addresses are in two different local authority areas then you are allowed to vote in the local elections in both areas.
What voting system is used?
The mayoral election will not use First Past The Post, the electoral system used for Parliamentary and Council elections. Instead, a different system, the Supplementary Voting System, will be used to elect the first combined authority Mayor.
The ballot paper will list all the candidates standing. Next to the list of candidates there will be two columns.
You will be asked to …
- Vote for your first choice candidate by marking a cross (✘) in Column A, and
- Vote for your second choice candidate by marking a cross (✘) in Column B.
- You should not mark more than one cross in Column A, and you should not mark more than one cross in Column B.
- If you have marked a first choice, you can choose whether or not to mark a second choice.
- If you only mark a cross in Column B, your vote will not be counted.
It will take longer than usual for the results to be known as there will be reduced staff at the count to ensure social distancing. The ballot papers will be verified on Friday before being sealed and held securely until Sunday when the count will begin.
A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: “The counting for the West Yorkshire mayor will take place on 9 May 2021. All five constituent councils will be counting with reduced staff due to social distancing measures. It is anticipated the count will take longer than usual, however no timings have been confirmed at present.”
Image credit: The Guardian