A well-known York business figure has thrown his hat in the ring to be mayor of North Yorkshire.

David Skaith has been shortlisted to the final two Labour candidates for York and North Yorkshire Mayor.

Labour is expected to announce its candidate in the coming weeks.

They will join Conservative candidate Keane Duncan, Green candidate Kevin Foster and Independent Keith Tordoff. The Liberal Democrats are yet to announce a candidate for the election on May 2, 2024.

David owns Winstons of York clothing retailer, until this month was chair of York High Street Forum and was previously secretary of Indie York.

The 37-year-old was born and raised in Harrogate. He first came to York to study at York St John University.

David returned to the city after working in hospitality in Harrogate and ran The North Face and Timberland stores in Petergate for several years.

York Press: David owns Winstons of YorkDavid owns Winstons of York (Image: milnerCreative)

In 2015 he started Winstons and was handed the keys to its Back Swinegate store in 2016.

'I’ve lived here all my life'

David told The Press he had been interested in the position of mayor for some time.

“It’s representing the whole region and speaking for a region that I’m from and passionate about – I’ve lived here all my life,” he explained.

Through his work with the High Street Forum, David said his aim was to “put York on the map” and “speak up for the city”.

If elected as mayor, he said he aims to do the same for the whole county.

But David acknowledged that, given North Yorkshire is the largest county in England, this could keep him busy.

York Press: North Yorkshire is England's largest countyNorth Yorkshire is England's largest county (Image: Supplied)

“It is a very big area,” he said.

David felt a mayor would bring a “joined up approach” to solving key issues like transport infrastructure, a lack of housing and creating more jobs.

'I want to put York and North Yorkshire on the map'

Talking about business, David is keen to support budding entrepreneurs and small business to have careers in North Yorkshire.

And he is hoping that supporting independent businesses will keep talent here, rather than see it move to London and other major cities.  

“We need to start looking at the next generation of small business owners and entrepreneurs,” David explained.

When David started Winstons he said he had “no experience of writing a business plan and developing a business”.

“It was learning on the go, making a huge amount of mistakes and probably wasting a lot of money in the process,” he added.

For future business to thrive, he said support must be there.

“Now more than ever we need our towns, high streets, villages, markets, to be filled with the next generation of businesses,” David said.

“I want to put York and North Yorkshire on the map as the place where we encourage start-ups, young entrepreneurs and independent businesses to do business.”

He said that after the pandemic the places that recovered the fastest were ones that had local businesses supporting the local economy, like York and market towns including Thirsk and Malton. 

Given this, David recognised the importance of having national chains in North Yorkshire but said it was important to support local business to keep wealth within communities.  

Transport is 'overriding issue we need to solve'

Aside from business, David is keen to address transport in North Yorkshire which he said was the “overriding issue we need to solve”.

He lives in Wheldrake and described transport links from his home to York as “appalling”.

York Press: David outside WinstonsDavid outside Winstons (Image: Alan Milner/milnercreative)

But David felt this is part of a county wide problem.

“People are struggling to move round the region for work,” he said.

“What a mayor would do is join up cities and areas across the region.”

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David spoke fondly of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham’s approach to transport, including addressing issues with trains and buses.

'It’s definitely going to be a challenge'

Despite David’s ambitions, should he be selected, he is faced with the challenge of Labour getting elected in a traditional Conservative area – at the 2019 general election 53.3 per cent of North Yorkshire’s vote went to the Tories.

But he remains confident, noting the success of York Central MP Rachael Maskell and Labour winning the York council election in May.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” he said.

“It's a blue county up into North Yorkshire and further afield, but I think my links with the community – particularly Harrogate, Knaresborough and York – will stand me in good stead.

“It’s time for real change, but it’s also a position that will bring people of all parties together.

“It’s a spokesperson for the region type position – this is not playing party politics."