People standing in a shop

PSE Exclusive: David Skaith talks through his journey so far, and what lies ahead.

From small business owner to being elected the first Mayor of York and Yorkshire...

Having seen the fantastic achievements in the rest of Yorkshire and areas such as Manchester and Liverpool, I felt like York and North Yorkshire was being left behind. On a personal note, my wife works as a teacher, my brother is in the police and my Mum has been stuck on hospital waiting lists for three years. They’ve all experienced difficulties when frontline services don’t work. These are the things that motivated me to run for Mayor. I want to highlight all the great things happening in our region and put myself forward to get help for those most in need, especially in areas that are most isolated. It’s an honour to have that opportunity.

First impressions of the job are incredibly exciting. There are so many opportunities and I think we can tackle the big challenges. The powers we have over transport, housing, skills and growing the economy will allow me to make a difference, as well as supporting those out there that are already doing it, like those working in the voluntary and community sector. I want to enable them to do more of the brilliant work they are already doing.

Woman holding  basket of veg

Leading York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority, which is also a new organisation, having only formed in January, we are tasked with delivering a devolution deal worth £540 million over 30 years. 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.

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. Key areas for me are affordable housing, connecting our communities with a new transport system, supporting high street businesses, delivering a cost of living recovery plan, and to fight for more GP and dentist appointments.

As a Combined Authority, we’re working closely with City of York Council and North Yorkshire Council to deliver devolved funds and attract new investment. 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.

Young people sat outside a shop

Opportunities also lie around us in neighbouring, devolved areas. As Mayors, we champion our regions day-to-day, but we believe there is scope for working together to create an even stronger voice, a unified voice for Yorkshire, and lead change together.

Thinking back to when I was running a shop, it’s fair to say my life now is unimaginably different! Having been self-employed for 10 years and primarily working on my own, there is a different weight of responsibility to this role. I’m thoroughly enjoying it though. We are creating a strong team at the Combined Authority and we will bring partners and industry together to reach the region, deliver our devolution deal and attract further investment.

 

Image credit: iStock

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