We have written to each of the candidates 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 fourth of those responses, from Cllr Matt Robinson, the candidate for the Conservative & Unionist Party, as follows:
1) 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’?
I support HS2 and NPR. HS2 is important not because of 20min cuts in journey times to London but because of the additional capacity it adds, the investment that comes with it from business, the jobs created and the jobs to suppliers and the supply chain too. I’ve also said would should start in the North at Leeds and it’s vital that the benefits are felt beyond the LS postcode areas e.g. Huddersfield University has a great Railway Research Institute and I want to ensure they’re involved. The costs need bringing under control and have sapped some public confidence in the scheme and it’s why I’ve said that as Mayor combined authority schemes must come in on budget – the taxpayer can’t be expected to meet overrun costs.
NPR connects the West Yorkshire together and to other Northern areas, and our East to West connects are as important as North to South. I’m on the record as supporting this and want to ensure it’s delivery and the regeneration and job opportunities that come with construction are enjoyed in West Yorkshire as well as the subsequent improved journeys and connectivity.
I can’t say where they are on importance in “levelling up country” because I don’t know all the other national schemes but they are high on my list for levelling up the county and if you believe in levelling up, as I do, then the benefits have to be felt by our towns not just cities, and that means greater connectivity between out towns across West Yorkshire.
2) What policies, other than the above, do you have to ‘level up the country’?
You’ll have read my plan for new opportunity areas to connect skills training, schools and business, regenerating our town centres, working with business to create new apprenticeships and training that leads to careers including but not limited to the important manufacturing sector, connecting communities with clean green and on time public transport so people can rely on our transport system and make the choice to get out of the car, my ambition for West Yorkshire to become a gigabit region for digital connectivity, and my no new local taxes proposal – people have been hit with enough taxes and we need to spend what we have better before asking for more.
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?
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)?
And should the powers transferred to Yorkshire be more like Scotland’s than like Manchester’s?
I won’t become Mayor and immediately start unpicking the devolution deal. We need to make a success of what we have on the table and gain public confidence in devolution and it’s ability to deliver real impact before asking for more powers, bigger geographic areas to be covered or new negotiations.
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 West Yorkshire Mayor won’t set the regions in the way set out any I’m more concerned with having regions that make sense here in West Yorkshire and how we connect communities so smart ticketing works whether you’re travelling in Kirklees or Bradford. I want to ensure we work with our neighbours so that where we have local travel and economic opportunities we plan and work cohesively. And we have many communities who’ve felt left out of political decision making regardless of whether it’s a Yorkshire or Yorkshire & Humber and we need understand the challenges of those areas and how we can best deliver new jobs, new investment, brownfield land first regeneration, make their streets safer and secure extra investment for those communities.
5) What are your policies on electoral reform and constitutional change?
The Mayor has no powers or responsibilities for electoral reform or constitutional change so there aren’t policy commitments on this. Regardless of the system the duty is to listen to voters, understand their concerns or priorities and seek to deliver in an sound financial way.
6) What are your policies in respect of energy, environment and planning?
Climate Change forms one of our biggest global as well as local challenges and West Yorkshire will play its part. We need to move to clean, green and on time public transport including electric buses but changing the infrastructure of our network too e.g. solar powered bus stops. I’ll prioritise delivering flood prevention, as Cllr who’s represented communities that flood I know the devastation this can cause and the need for reduce the speed of water flow and flood attenuation. Protecting the greenbelt and bringing forward brownfield land first is great for regeneration and for our environment and will be my approach. We also need to look at how we build homes with green technology and pursue schemes to sensibly retrofit homes to insulate and reduce energy costs. And I will deliver the new Northern Forest. I’m passionate about this and want to see more trees planted, better canopy cover, more habitats crested and woodland that accessible for people to enjoy and respect.