We have written to each of the candidates, so far declared, standing for election as Mayor of West Yorkshire to ask for their responses to specific questions of particular interest to readers of our website (see: here). Today we received the second of those responses, from Cllr Stewart Golton, the candidate for the Liberal Democrats, as follows:
- What are your policies on transport infrastructure, particularly in respect of HS2 and links across the North such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and Beeching Reversals?
- Where do you place these in order of importance to ‘levelling up the country’?
HS2 is not the priority for Yorkshire, and it’s a shame that it has mesmerised Yorkshire’s current leaders away from focussing on performance and investment in our commuter network. To achieve its goal of high speed means its route needs to be as straight as possible and that means destroying existing communities and environment in its way. The priority for Yorkshire and the North is faster and improved links between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull as that will service the local economy and employment much better than HS2 would.
Rather than think in terms of ‘Beeching Reversals’, connectivity between other parts of Yorkshire and into the big cities should be considered on a business case basis. If there is a sound business case, that connectivity should be provided whether it means re-opening an old line or building a new one.
2) What policies, other than the above, do you have to ‘level up the country’?
The Government’s Levelling Up Fund should be equally divided between the devolved regions and each should have the powers to decide how to use that money according to local needs. Regions should also have fiscal powers to raise revenues in new and varied ways. The deals currently being granted by Whitehall to regions in England are not devolution but delegation. There should also be a programme of economic development through new business, energy generation and agricultural investment.
3) With a South Yorkshire Mayor already existing, do you want the creation of a West Yorkshire Mayor to be a stepping stone toward Yorkshire being devolved as one?
- If not, why?
- If so:
What will you do toward achieving that?
Yes! If I became Mayor I would certainly make my voice heard on Yorkshire being devolved as one. Yorkshire is a cultural entity with which people identify and are familiar. No individual part of Yorkshire has a brand to match the power of the Yorkshire brand and therefore could not reap the same level of benefits, such as inward investment.
With a population and economy more like Scotland than like Manchester, should the model of devolution for an All-Yorkshire government be more like Scotland’s (Parliament) than like Manchester’s (Mayor)?
An elected assembly model is always preferable to ensure regionwide accountability for decisionmaking.
And should the powers transferred to Yorkshire be more like Scotland’s than like Manchester’s?
The devolved powers enjoyed across the UK should be as consistent as possible, but given Scotland’s traditional autonomy of justice and education systems, that is not something that is desirable or necessary to be superimposed on English regions.
4) Now that we have left the EU, do you believe the EU Regions imposed on England, such as ‘Yorkshire and The Humber’, with which very few people identify, should be scrapped in favour of Traditional Counties, such as Yorkshire (or clusters of Traditional Counties, e.g. Westmorland, Lancashire & Cheshire)?
- If not, why?
- If so, what will you do toward achieving that?
The people concerned should decide where administrative boundaries should be set. I would have no problem with northern Lincolnshire remaining in a region with parts of Yorkshire nor with parts of the old Ridings outside Yorkshire and the Humber remaining in their current regions if that is what they wanted. The important matter to me is that power is brought closer to the people and that the geography of devolution facilitates economic reality.
5) What are your policies on electoral reform and constitutional change?
We need a constitutional convention to achieve a voting system which represents voters fairly and to consolidate the other changes I have mentioned. Proportional representation and abolition of the appointed House of Lords to become a Chamber of the Regions are all key to reducing political exclusion and disengagement.
6) What are your policies in respect of energy, environment and planning?
Investment in better construction and domestic heating systems to help achieve zero emissions. Building materials and energy should be produced from renewable and sustainable materials & resources and insulation used should be of a quality to maximise heat retention.