David Skaith, Mayor of York and North Yorkshire, reflects on his first few weeks in office.

It’s an honour to be elected the first Mayor of York and North Yorkshire. In these opening weeks, I’m taking every opportunity to listen to communities across the region. It’s vital that communities understand the role of Mayor and what it means for York and North Yorkshire. This is a huge opportunity to make lives better for people across the region long into the future. I take the responsibility very seriously and I want to ensure we get this right and deliver benefits to communities now and for the future.

Regions really benefit from a mayoral voice fighting their corner and I will be that voice for York and North Yorkshire. We stand out among other devolved areas as a city, coastal and rural region, which provides a unique opportunity for investment, building on our devolution deal worth £540 million over 30 years.

First 100 days

I want to use my first 100 days in office to meet as many communities as possible, to listen to their issues and opportunities. I also want to understand how we can work together to deliver pledges I made when elected, which tackle inequalities among communities and businesses and promote economic growth.

My first visits were with York and North Yorkshire voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations. This included a service launch by Knaresborough-based Better Connect, meeting the team at Whixley Village Hall and a roundtable hosted by Community First Yorkshire in Askham Bryan. It was a rewarding day, hearing extremely moving stories from people supported by the sector, and having open and honest conversations with the organisations themselves. Addressing the cost of living is a major driver for me ​and working together with organisations such as these is how we will create a real impact. I was there to listen, to understand the needs and challenges faced by these organisations and the communities they serve. Voluntary and community groups are well loved parts of every community, and they also play a vital role in our economy as employers and enterprises.

Visiting UKREiiF

I attended UKREiiF in Leeds, one of the UK’s biggest real estate investment conventions, held across three days. This included a Meet the Mayor session, a great platform to share more about my pledges. I spoke with delegates about investment in affordable homes and public transport connecting a skilled workforce with the region’s unique business sectors. Measures that, in-turn, can attract inward investment to York and North Yorkshire. We have the skilled workforce and people want to live here. We have the colleges and universities and we need to keep that next generation here with affordable homes. We need the transport connectivity to get people to our rural and coastal areas and we need the affordable homes.

A regional leaders session brought together Mayors, Local Authority leaders and government representatives to further discuss our challenges and opportunities. The biggest challenge for York and North Yorkshire is that investment is usually tailored towards major cities – to reach our full potential nationally we need a regional investment approach capable of working with the unique challenges and opportunities in relation to place. A big opportunity though is that our smaller, yet innovation rich, city and rural powerhouse is packed full of untapped potential. York and North Yorkshire’s bioeconomy is strong and we have significant potential to build a world leading cluster – working in partnership with the private sector we can drive progress forward. The private sector creates jobs. Our purpose as the public sector is to create an environment where business can thrive, securing and leveraging private sector investment and growth. We also need to invest to ensure a talent pipeline is homegrown and can be sustained and that opportunity is easily accessible and that’s where the powers around skills, housing and transport are so essential.

On the final day of UKREiiF, myself and Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, delivered a talk. We explored how our region’s USPs can complement each other. The conversation must be about creating Yorkshire-wide connections, east-to-west and north-to-south. This is how we can ensure York and North Yorkshire’s coastal and rural areas benefit from economic growth and opportunity. It’s also about how we can achieve more together – we have so much to offer when we champion our uniqueness and collaborate on our shared strengths. Alongside my pledges around connectivity, the cost of living and affordable housing throughout the region, we also need to support our high streets and tackle the inequalities created by a shortage of GP and dentist appointments. That unified voice can only help us when it comes to delivering against these pledges and attracting further investment.

It has been a whirlwind start since taking office on 7 May. The role is new, as is the York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority which is delivering the devolution deal for the region. The team has the passion, knowledge, and drive to achieve the success our region deserves.

I look forward to meeting many more communities as we work together to build what I think can be a fairer, stronger and united York and North Yorkshire.

Leaders at Combined Authority launch event

Published on Friday 24 May