Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
5:05 PM 29th April 2024

North Yorkshire Mayoral Candidates: Felicity Cunliffe-Lister Liberal Democrat

We invited candidates hoping to win the race to become North Yorkshire's first mayor to answer a few of our burning questions. Here are the answers from Felicity Cunliffe-Lister standing for the Liberal Democrats.

Felicity Cunliffe-Lister
Felicity Cunliffe-Lister
According to a survey this week in The Times, a majority of people do not trust the police to solve crimes. Local community groups on social media are filled with stories of people reporting crimes to the police but no action being taken. What practical steps would you take as Mayor to improve policing and the image of policing in North Yorkshire?

As Mayor, my role would be - as critical friend - to challenge the police and hold them to account. It is already my pledge to increase community policing and having spoken to the new Chief Constable it is also his priority. This will help reduce crime and help residents feel safer, and it will be important for the Mayor to engage with residents, to hear their concerns and address them, and ensure they understand what actions this has led to. There is also a national target of every burglary being investigated within an hour of it being reported - the “golden hour” - to enable essential evidence to be collected. The region is currently achieving the mid/high 80’s on this, so I will be challenging this to establish which areas can be improved.

North Yorkshire is large and most of it is rural. Many communities have limited or no bus services or public transport. With new mayoral powers over devolved transport, what will you do to improve this?

With the Mayoral role comes the ability to deliver an integrated public transport service and a transport fund. I would, as Mayor, deliver more bus routes, and more regular and reliable services. With control of the timetable I would create a bus service with buses that connect to each other, and to trains, to enable residents to get to education, training, work, and essential services - and to enable travel through the region and beyond.

A thirty-year investment fund will be available to you as mayor, but the funding amounts to only £18m per year, which is a tiny amount when split across the whole of North Yorkshire. Assuming you will therefore be focusing the investment instead, which areas do you intend to benefit from the fund first and why?

The funding needs to generate economic growth and I have identified three economic sectors where I would invest this which is the bio-economy, green energy and the location/film production/media sector.

With full devolution of the adult education budget to the mayor, what plans do you have with regard to changing or improving adult education provision across the region?

I will improve the relationship between schools and business with more work experience schemes to enable young people to make the right career choice, there will be an apprenticeship fund to enable the scheme to be more flexible and provide more skills. Where there are specific shortages, I will invest in Skills Villages.

It has been reported that £12.7m has been allocated for the mayor to deliver 700 new homes on brownfield sites in the region. That’s only £18,000 per home. What can you actually deliver with that money?

The fund is being used to enable developments to take place that might not otherwise. The intervention rate per house is currently just over £13K hence the number of homes being built.

There have been numerous well-reported disagreements and problems between existing regional mayors and central government. With a new Labour government widely expected to be in power later this year, how do you propose to handle the relationship with Westminster?

As the champion for the region, I will engage with whatever party is in power. My focus is on finding consensus and building relationships, and with access to Westminster I will ensure that the region’s potential and needs are brought to the fore. I will also engage with the other Northern mayors, for us to lobby together on issues that relate to the whole area.

Tourism is a major contributor to the economy in much of the region. What plans do you have to promote North Yorkshire further? How will you support businesses across the region that are involved with tourism?

I have pledged to support tourism specifically with the focus being on the need for a clear vision and strategy, identifying our unique selling points, emerging trends, new markets, extending the season, length of stay and spend. i will lobby for VAT reduction, boost the night time economy and help resolve the skills shortage.

£10m has been set aside for you to support transition to net zero. What are your opinions about climate change and what will you achieve with this money?

My vision for the region is for it to achieve its net zero target, be sustainable and bio-diverse. Sustainability is a thread that runs through my manifesto, and I have pledged to drive sustainable economic growth. As a businesswoman, my business has always taken the lead on reducing emissions and increasing our biodiversity and the Mayoral office would adopt this ethos and sign up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The combined authority has said that it will “unlock economic opportunity”, “empower business growth” and “create new and better paid jobs”. This sounds positive; yet it is very vague. How will you actually achieve these goals?

I will be able to use my Mayoral fund and my lobbying powers to leverage funding, public and private, to pull into the region - this will help deliver growth and the creation of jobs. At the same time, with the focus on delivery of skills and my support for research, a skilled workforce and strong research sector will attract firms to move into the region.

The makeup of the combined authority board looks to be skewed in favour of York rather than representing the whole of the region. How do you intend to ensure that York does not excessively benefit at the expense of other areas?

I appreciate this is a concern. As Mayor I will represent all residents, and my focus will be on delivering the best outcomes for the whole region. The councils need to work together in order for this to be achieved, which is why there is equal representation - but this does not mean that North Yorkshire residents will be underrepresented.

Why do you want to be mayor?

The region has been left behind, and this is a great opportunity to redress the balance. With the funding that the role brings, there is great potential for it to deliver economic growth and prosperity, and with stronger communities. The role needs someone with business experience, skills and leadership and as a lawyer and successful businesswoman, I am the only candidate with this background.

Tell us something more personal about yourself that demonstrates why we should vote for you.

Outside of my manifesto pledges I have one further ambition : I want to change the political landscape, creating a platform for collaboration and consensus. The current political climate is toxic and divisive and so little is achieved - other than short term policies and headlines - and the electorate have lost faith in the system. I will demonstrate that politics is a force for good, re-engage with residents who feel that their vote doesn’t count, and ensure that all stakeholders are fully represented.

The York and North Yorkshire mayor will be chosen by residents across the region in an election on Thursday, May 2, 2024.

The full list of candidates are:

Keith Tordoff, independent
Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, Liberal Democrats
Keane Duncan, Conservative Party
David Skaith, Labour Party
Kevin Foster, Green Party
Paul Haslam, independent