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Local elections 2024: Mayor of West Yorkshire

On 2 May 2024, voters elected Tracy Brabin as Mayor of West Yorkshire

Leeds city centre
Leeds city centre. The city sits at the heart of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

On 2 May 2024, Tracy Brabin was elected for the second time as Mayor of West Yorkshire with 50% of the vote. Brabin heads the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) which controls a budget of £866m.

What is the result of the 2024 West Yorkshire mayoral election?

Tracy Brabin was re-elected as mayor of West Yorkshire and now starts her second mayoral term. She represents the Labour Party and was first elected in May 2021, the first woman to be elected as a metro mayor in England. 25 BBC ‘Election results 2021: Tracy Brabin elected West Yorkshire mayor’, BBC, 9 May 2021, retrieved 7 January 2022,   She was formerly MP for Batley and Spen.

Brabin’s highest share of the vote was 57% in Wakefield, and her lowest was 44% in Kirklees.

Turnout across the region was 32%, lower than in the 2021 election where turnout was 36%.

The Conservative party candidate was Leeds-born Arnold Craven, head of external affairs at Cadent Gas Limited. 26 Natasha Meek, ‘Who is Arnold Craven, Conservative West Yorkshire mayor candidate?’ 26 February 2024, retrieved 14 March 2024,  Other candidates included Andrew Cooper, a Green party councillor in Kirklees, Stewart Golton, the leader of the Liberal Democrats on Leeds City Council, Bob Buxton of the Yorkshire Party and independent candidate Jonathan Tilt.

What is the history of devolution to West Yorkshire?

WYCA was established in April 2014, bringing together Leeds and four neighbouring local council areas. As a combined authority, it has the ability to take certain collective decisions across council boundaries. 

Attempts to include Harrogate, Craven and Selby in an expanded ‘Leeds City Region’ combined authority between 2015–17 failed due to local opposition. 27 Helen Pidd, ‘Sheffield mayoral vote delay prompts calls for Yorkshire-wide deal’ The Guardian, 12 January 2017, retrieved 9 November 2023,  A ‘One Yorkshire’ devolution proposal put forward in 2017, which would have included West Yorkshire as part of a pan Yorkshire deal, was rejected by ministers despite local support, on the grounds that this large region did not form a coherent economic area. 28 House of Lords, Hansard, ‘Yorkshire: Devolution’ HL Deb 12 February 2019, vol 795, cols 1738-39.

In March 2020, a new ‘devolution deal’ was reached between the UK government and WYCA.  This transferred a set of powers from Whitehall and created a new directly elected ‘metro mayor’ of West Yorkshire, who would chair the combined authority. The first election was held in May 2021. 

What is the West Yorkshire Combined Authority?

WYCA is a mayoral combined authority, established as a legal entity using powers under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, with specific functions devolved to it using powers under the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016.

WYCA has five constituent local authorities – Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield – and one non-constituent member, City of York. The combined authority is formed of 10 representatives of these councils, with provision to ensure a degree of political balance, as well as a business representative. It is chaired by the mayor, who is elected directly by voters across the region.

Since the May 2024 local elections, the Labour Party has majority control of four of the constituent councils, with Kirklees under no overall control. 

As of July 2023, the combined authority employed a total of 765 staff.

What are the powers of the West Yorkshire mayor and combined authority?

WYCA and the mayor of West Yorkshire hold functions and control budgets in areas including transport, adult education and skills, housing, economic development and policing.

The devolution deal allocated an investment fund worth up to £1.14bn over 30 years to WYCA. This is delivered through annual payments of £38m, subject to five-yearly reviews by the Treasury. The payments are not inflation-linked, and so their real value will decline over time. The fund is used to invest in projects to increase regional productivity and growth: 25% of the funding is for capital expenditure and 75% for operations/revenue.

The combined authority controls a devolved transport budget and, in March 2024, Brabin signed off on a decision to begin the process of taking local bus services under public control. 32 Tracy Brabin, Tweet, 13 March 2024, A longer-term objective is to raise the funding to build a mass transit system for the region, with central government offering £830m ‘long-term sustainable transport funding.’ 33 Michael Gove, ‘Secretary of State letter to Mayor Tracy Brabin, West Yorkshire Combined Authority’, GOV.UK, 1 March 2024, retrieved 14 March 2024,…  

In August 2021, WYCA took responsibility for the region’s 19+ adult education budget, which the authority intends to use to benefit the 380,000 people in the region who have low or no qualifications. The authority also works with the Leeds City Region local enterprise partnership, whose functions are being integrated into the combined authority, to deliver other skills and business support programmes. 

The mayor can exercise strategic planning powers, including undertaking compulsory purchase orders. However, the consent of the constituent authority where the site is situated is required. The mayor also has the power to create mayoral development areas to support economic regeneration, and to pay grants for exercising highway functions and to bus operators.

The mayor has few executive powers that they can exercise unilaterally. Most decisions must be approved by the constituent authorities; some must receive unanimous support. 

In May 2021, the powers of the West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner were transferred to the mayor. These powers include the ability to appoint the chief constable, set the budget and determine local policing priorities.

Further powers are due to be devolved to WYCA under a new ‘level 4’ devolution deal, which was announced in February 2024. 34 DLUHC, ‘Technical paper on Level 4 devolution framework’, GOV.UK, 22 November 2023, retrieved 14 March 2024,  

Local and mayoral elections 2024

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Voting count council workers counting papers

What is the West Yorkshire Combined Authority budget? 

In February 2024, the combined authority approved a £866m budget for the 2024/25 financial year, split between £388m revenue (i.e. day-to-day) spending and £478m capital investment. 38   

On the revenue side, £204m is allocated to transport programmes including ‘transport operations’ and ‘passenger experience’. £157m is allocated to the ‘inclusivity, economy, skills & culture’ directorate, and includes the £66m adult education budget. £26m falls within the ‘policing, environment and place’ directorate, which does not include the separate operational budget for the police. 

The bulk of the capital investment spending also relates to transport investment, with a total of £401m allocated to projects including road maintenance, zero-carbon buses, active travel infrastructure and the planned mass transit system. Other big capital spending items include £55m of brownfield housing spending and £9m on social housing decarbonisation, within the wider ‘policing, environment and place’ directorate. 39  

In addition to the above figures, WYCA is responsible for setting the separate West Yorkshire police budget, which is estimated to total £584m for 2024/25, including both revenue and capital spending. 40  

WYCA Expenditure

How does the WYCA compare to the rest of the UK in terms of social and economic outcomes?

West Yorkshire is below the national average across several core key economic and social indicators. Economic productivity, gross median pay and employment are below the UK average, although there is substantial variation within the region itself. Leeds, for instance, is above average in terms of employment and close to the UK average in terms of gross median pay.

The region also underperforms on adult skills. Only 58% of 1664 year olds have a level three qualification or above, compared to 61% across the UK. Leeds performs above the regional and national average, with 65% having a level three qualification.

The West Yorkshire region has a lower proportion of houses (60%) that reach the decent homes standard than England as a whole (77%); this is true for every constituent council area. 

Aside from Leeds, all parts of the region are also well below average in terms of the share of the population who commute to work using public transport.

How does the WYCA area overlap with other administrative boundaries?

WYCA is generally well aligned with other administrative boundaries. The area covered by WYCA is coterminous with the West Yorkshire police force area, which enabled the police and crime commissioner functions to be merged with those of the mayor, and with the Leeds City Region local enterprise partnership which has been integrated into the combined authority. 

The WYCA region is covered by the West Yorkshire and Harrogate NHS sustainability and transformation plan (STP). STPs bring together local authorities and NHS organisations to facilitate the development of ‘place-based’ approaches to the delivery of NHS services in given regions. However, it is not coterminous with WYCA, since the STP includes the area covered by Harrogate Council.

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