As part of a series of interviews with leading candidates to be the next Mayor of West Yorkshire, Liberal Democrat candidate Stewart Golton sat down with the Gryphon to set out his stall.
Golton was first elected to Leeds City Council in 1998 for Weetwood, just north of Headingley, before being elected in Rothwell in 2006 and is currently the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the City Council.
He states that his belief in the concept of devolution was one of the key reasons behind his run. “It’s one of the reasons I joined the Liberal Democrats, I believe in localism and in allowing people in different parts of the United Kingdom to set their own priorities,” he says.
Golton says that in his 23 years-experience in local government will be to his benefit. “I’ve had experience at what devolved decision making looks like, as opposed to Westminster decision making, and that needs a hell of a lot of improvement.”
But what exactly he will do with those powers? One of them is the concept of the ’15-minute neighbourhood’, the idea that all essential amenities and services are located within a 15- minute walk or cycle, and is seen as a way to tackle climate change. It’s been touted by the Mayor of Paris, and Golton believes he can bring that to West Yorkshire. “You can deliver transport schemes to enable it,” he says, pointing out what he believes are flaws in
what transport schemes offer and bemoaning the attention bus companies are paid which he argues are at the expense of cyclists and other commuters.
“On top of that, you need to make sure things like doctors’ surgeries are in walking distances, that your town centres are rejuvenated in terms of being social hubs,” Golton continues. He believes that “all of that needs to be enabled.”
Golton is also opposed to the Leeds-Bradford airport expansion, an issue that seems to have split the slate of mayoral candidates in half. He says, “if we are going to take the climate seriously, there needs to be some significant decisions made in terms of prioritizing one kind of investment over the other.” He also extends this opposition to HS2.
Golton stresses, however, the need to take people with him on the issue. “One of the things we’ve learned from Covid is that actually if you engage the population enough, they’re more than happy to agree to changing the way they act and behave for the greater good.”
House building is also at the centre of the Liberal Democrat’s campaign: “It’s a social necessity, the living environment has the biggest impact on our climate, it’s usually domestic heating systems that deliver the biggest carbon footprint. That needs to change as soon as possible.”
Whether Golton can take a party currently languishing in single-figures in most national polls to the top in Leeds on 6 May looks to be a tough challenge, but Golton is optimistic. “The voting system is different,” he says, insisting that this will benefit his campaign. “There’s an opportunity for people to actually vote with their heart for a change.”
The local elections take place on Thursday 6 May, 2021.
Featured image via the candidate’s Twitter.