YORK and North Yorkshire’s new metro mayor David Skaith has promised to rise above politics to be a 'spokesperson for the whole region'.

He says it will be his job to act as the public face for the region: attracting investment, driving change and bringing joined-up decision-making while ensuring no part of his large and diverse constituency is overlooked.

A key area of his responsibility will be developing a regional transport infrastructure that isn’t limited by council boundaries.

And speaking on his first day on office, he admitted that he was not ruling out the possibility of bringing parts of the region’s public transport network into public ownership, if that proved to be the best way forward.

Mr Skaith, who was elected on a Labour ticket, stressed he would put the region – not his party – first in everything he did.

He said he was looking forward to working not only with York’s Labour council leader Claire Douglas, but also with the Conservative leader of North Yorkshire Council, Carl Les.

“I’ve had a couple of meetings with Carl,” Mr Skaith said.

“He is very experienced, and has a great deal of knowledge. It will be about working together, across York and North Yorkshire, putting the region first, not Labour vs the Conservatives.”

Mr Skaith will chair a combined authority made up of delegates from both York and North Yorkshire councils.


New Metro Mayor becomes 'one of region's most powerful politicians'

Metro Mayor David Skaith makes housing and transport his priorities

And he says his new role offers an unprecedented opportunity to bring more joined-up thinking and more strategic, longer-term decision-making to the region.

His main areas of responsibility will be regional transport; identifying land for housing; and boosting training and skills opportunities so as to develop a ‘home-grown workforce’ that meets the needs of the region’s employers.

He also takes on the functions of the police, fire and crime commissioner – although he will be delegating that responsibility to a deputy.

He will also take charge of a £1million ‘Mayor’s High Street Fund’, which he will use to support high streets in urban areas across the region – a project close to his heart as a York shop owner and one-time chair of the city’s High Street Forum.

On transport, he said journeys didn’t start and stop at local authority boundaries – and so transport connections shouldn’t either.

He said he was looking forward to working with the mayors of South and West Yorkshire to develop an integrated transport system for the ‘whole of Yorkshire’.

And he hopes to go further – working with mayors in Manchester and Liverpool on a more integrated transport system that crossed the country from east to west and linked the whole of the ‘northern powerhouse’.

Quizzed about whether he would want to bring some of the region's public transport network into public ownership, he said: "Other local authorities have taken public transport back under control - although we are very different from Manchester."

A properly integrated transport system coupled with a local focus on identifying the skills - and therefore training - that employers in the region needed would make York and North Yorkshire much more attractive to potential investors, he said.

The Mayoral Investment Fund for the region of £540 million over the next 30 years will be just the start, he says.

It would be used to leverage more investment into the region.

He gave housing as an example.

His new combined authority will be working hard to identify appropriate brownfield sites in town and cities across the region where affordable housing can be built.

He will have £12.7 million to spend in his first year in office on identifying and preparing the ground for up to 700 new homes.

But the money won’t be spent on building them. Instead it will be spent on identifying sites, and providing the necessary infrastructure – such as transport and facilities – so that they can then be built.

Much of the Mayoral Investment Fund will be used in a similar way, he stressed.

“It is seed money, which will be used to bring in more funding and more investment.”

He said he has no doubt that the new post of metro mayor will make a real difference to the region.

“All the regions that have had a mayor have been able to bring in greater investment, build more houses, create jobs and grow their economy,” he said.

“It’s about being able to really do things.”