Showground hosts York and North Yorkshire Mayoral hustings

Candidates to be the first Mayor for York and North Yorkshire have had their say on rural issues at a rural hustings hosted by the Yorkshire Food Farming and Rural Network.

Taking place after the Network’s Learning Through Land event at Pavilions of Harrogate on Monday 11th March 2024, it was a chance for farming and rural professionals to have their questions answered by the would-be mayors.

Candidates and Hustings hosts pictured L-R: Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, Keith Tordoff, David Hall, Keane Duncan, David Skaith, John Harding.

The role of the Mayor

The newly creation position of York and North Yorkshire Mayor is part of the region’s devolution deal with central government.

The election for the first York and North Yorkshire Mayor will take place on Thursday 2nd May 2024.

When the mayor is elected in May, they will serve a 4-year term and will lead the York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority and chair the Combined Authority Board.

There’s more information here, including a summary of the Mayor’s powers and responsibilities.

It is the role of the Mayor to work alongside local leaders to create a long-term vision, and secure more investment into the region.

Rural hustings

The hustings at the Great Yorkshire Showground was introduced by John Harding of Great Yorkshire Radio and was chaired by NFU North Director David Hall.

Each candidate was given three minutes to talk about their priorities and issues they would like to address for the rural community.

In the order the candidates spoke at the hustings, here’s what they said about what they would do to support agriculture if elected as Mayor.

Independent candidate Keith Tordoff said he wanted local procurement of farm produce to improve, so too relationships between farmers and communities.

In relation to agriculture, we need to localise it.

We need to make sure we are actually getting farmers connected with local authorities – supplying – people in the communities working together supporting the farmers; fisheries of course on the coast as well, and I believe I have the skills necessary.

Liberal Democrat candidate Felicity Cunliffe-Lister said she would address food security and our relationship with food among other priorities.

I will challenge local procurement, reconnect farmer and consumer, and save local abattoirs. I will drive innovation. I will drive it towards margins not output, toward yield, environmental yield and reducing costs.

And I will also remove barriers such as the restriction to diversification in agricultural tenancies.

I will enable green energy generation. Every farmer should be driving their tractor on hydrogen, generated off-grid. And I would launch catchment-wide natural flood management schemes to raise funding, drive revenue towards farmers and improving yields.

Labour candidate David Skaith said he would capitalise on there currently being Labour mayors in South and West Yorkshire to speak with “one voice” to government on the climate emergency and to improve food security.

Over recent years we have seen how factors outside of our control can have a huge impact on our food security, cost, and have made global food trade vulnerable.

Food security is clearly a public good, it cannot be an optional extra. In North Yorkshire, we can lead the way for the entire country, producing food, becoming more sustainable and supporting our environment, increasing our capacity for renewable energy.

Conservative candidate Keane Duncan said he wanted to “confront” a divide in the North between big cities and rural regions like North Yorkshire.

We feed Britain, we are so strong in farming, in fishing, in food production… but for too long we have been overshadowed, overlooked in favour of Britain’s major cities.

This May everything changes with an unprecedented transfer of power from Westminster… let’s show Britain what we can achieve and build Britain’s first rural powerhouse.

During a Q&A, the candidates were also quizzed on how they would prioritise the devolution budget and covered topics such as housing, transport, skills and connectivity, amongst other issues.

Register to vote

If you are not already registered to vote, you have until midnight on Tuesday 16th April to register to vote on the government website to vote in York and North Yorkshire mayoral election.

The Yorkshire Food Farming and Rural Network champions the needs of farming, agri-food, rural businesses, and rural communities to enable them to become more resilient, competitive, and sustainable.

Click here for a full report of the Network’s recent Learning Through Land event, exploring income opportunities for farming and rural businesses.

Start typing and press Enter to search