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A Magazine for Sheffield

Candidates for South Yorkshire Mayor outline their policies

We asked candidates from every party for their policy positions on everything from public transport to the climate crisis.

Read our article summarising what the candidates had to say.

Elections for the next Mayor of South Yorkshire take place in three weeks' time. Candidates from across the political spectrum – only one of them having held any elected position before – are hoping to succeed Labour's Dan Jarvis, who is stepping down after one term.

Election campaigns are often about rhetoric and image, so at Now Then we wanted to ask the candidates for their position on specific policies. To help us, we joined up with local campaigns, activists and our readers to ask about the issues that are important to them. To keep it as succinct as possible, we limited each candidate to short answers. Here's what they told us.

Acorn logo

Mayoral powers have grown over time as different deals have been made around the country. What is something the South Yorkshire mayor currently can't do that you will fight for?

(Question from ACORN Sheffield)

🔵 Simon Biltcliffe, Yorkshire Party: I would like a devolved Parliament for all of Yorkshire. Yorkshire has more people than Scotland or Wales and you never hear anyone there say "I wish Westminster was back in charge" for very good reason! Regional decision-making works better for regional people – and in turn all of the UK.

Simon biltcliffe

Yorkshire Party candidate Simon Biltcliffe.

🔴 Oliver Coppard, Labour Party: Post-16 education and long-term housing budgets are an obvious place to start. But if the Mayor of South Yorkshire is to get those powers – or any extra powers – they can't be a cover for further cuts. Devolution must mean both greater powers and greater investment in our region.

🟡 Joe Otten, Liberal Democrats: Better integration of health and social care would be a huge prize, with the potential to deliver better outcomes for patients and care users while saving money. I would look at what Manchester has done with their powers to see what lessons could be learned, then put together a proposal for South Yorkshire.

🟢 Bex Whyman, Green Party: I would like new powers and resources to provide rent controls for private tenants and new protections against evictions to help ensure people live in secure and affordable homes. This is exactly what the Greens have done in our role in the Scottish Government, so why not in South Yorkshire?

Xr logo

What infrastructure and investment projects do you feel need to be cancelled or halted to have any chance of meeting the zero-carbon target? How will this be explained to the public and what will you put in place to ensure a just transition?

(Question from Extinction Rebellion Sheffield)

🔵 Biltcliffe: I think we need to bite the bullet and look at carbon tax as a way of rebalancing the economy on an individual and societal level. Sustainability has to be factored into all personal and commercial decision making and this is the most efficient way to do it – but it is contentious.

Oliver coppard

Labour candidate Oliver Coppard.

🔴 Coppard: A South Yorkshire citizens’ assembly is at the heart of my plans for us to get to net-zero; so the voices of our communities are heard, and we can make sure people have ownership over the decisions we make, including what development looks like in South Yorkshire.

🟡 Otten: None. We need more infrastructure projects. The most effective would be a comprehensive light rail network for SY, though funding this will be a challenge. Also the cycle network needs to be joined up and segregated from motor traffic. Finally I would support housing projects with the best energy efficiency standards.

🟢 Whyman: I would introduce an immediate moratorium on funding for all new road building, road widening and airport expansion projects. All such projects would go through a rigorous carbon impact assessment. Funding from cancelled projects would be redirected towards active travel and public transport infrastructure investment.

Better buses logo

Will you make a final statutory decision on whether or not to bring buses into public control within your first year in office, in line with the recommendations of the South Yorkshire Bus Review?

(Question from Better Buses for South Yorkshire)

🔵 Biltcliffe: To be honest I want to see what the review is. It's complex and expensive – generally a poor combination for rushed decisions. One thing's for sure – something needs to change on the buses to green them up and serve the people of South Yorkshire.

Joe otten

Liberal Democrat candidate Joe Otten.

🔴 Coppard: As Mayor, from day one I will work every day to bring our buses back under public control as fast as possible. But I would be lying if I said that transition will be quick or easy, and I refuse to make promises I don’t 100% know I can keep.

🟡 Otten: Yes. I have supported the Better Buses pledge and I see no reason why this couldn't have been progressed three years ago in line with the current mayor's manifesto promise.

🟢 Whyman: I aim to bring buses into public control by making a statutory decision within a year and a franchising assessment within two years. I also pledge to investigate bringing our buses and trams fully into public ownership, allowing our public transport to be run completely for public benefit.

Would you bring in a Workplace Parking Levy to fund better public transport and active travel?

🔵 Biltcliffe: I think there are smart solutions as well as 'transfer pricing', which this is. For example there's an app called BlaBlaCar which has revolutionised commuting in France. It's effectively Airbnb for cars – you share your car with others for a micro-payment, reducing the cost to the individual and the environment.

Bex Whyman

Green Party candidate Bex Whyman.

🔴 Coppard: I’ll consider anything that will help us make the transition to better public transport and active travel, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the biggest difference would be central government investing in our region, something they’ve failed to do so far.

🟡 Otten: No. This is a matter for local councils, and I would caution against extra taxes on local businesses for fear of driving jobs elsewhere.

🟢 Whyman: I would work with local councils to introduce an employers' Workplace Parking Levy. This has levered in £9 million per year in Nottingham, which has been invested in improving active travel and public transport services. Greens have repeatedly proposed this on Sheffield City Council but have been blocked by Labour.

How will biodiversity loss be halted in our region? Why is green belt land under threat in some areas?

🔵 Biltcliffe: Housing and employment hoover up vast tracts of land, but we need to employ and house people. The green belt should be a last resort to put these on though and what's green needs to be valued properly for the wellbeing and natural value it delivers, rather than being seen as valueless unless used for development.

🔴 Coppard: I will ask the Mayoral Combined Authority to work with partners such as the Wildlife Trust to deliver a natural environment strategy – a nature recovery strategy for our region that protects and restores nature and invests in our ecosystems. And I’ll back plans to plant 1.4 million trees too.

🟡 Otten: Better planning policy needs to recognise the ecological value of sites such as Owlthorpe Fields. The mayor can use brownfield regeneration funds to promote housing developments on brownfield sites. Councils must resist calls to develop greenbelt – if any is released it will be the first to be built on.

🟢 Whyman: Nature Recovery Action Plans need to be implemented and resourced across South Yorkshire. Green Belt land is under threat because of pressure on councils from government to allocate more land for development. We also need to be aware that greenfield and brownfield land can also have a high ecological value.

When can we have electric buses in Sheffield?

🔵 Biltcliffe: 25 are on their way and either electric or hydrogen power is the future. No bus should be replaced in the region that isn't powered by more sustainable energy. Public transport needs to play a significantly more prominent role in peoples' lives for us to hit our net-zero targets, but it must be user-friendly too.

🔴 Coppard: Dan Jarvis recently secured £8.5 million funding to support our transition to electric and hydrogen buses. I’ll do everything I can to build on that legacy, so we can not only get people out of their cars, but onto cleaner, greener buses.

🟡 Otten: An electric city-centre bus is likely in the next few years. Investment in the whole fleet will probably have to wait for franchising. Sheffield's Clean Air Zone will cause operators to move older buses to other parts of SY. The mayor has responsibility for the whole of SY and must not allow this sort of knock-on effect from their policies.

🟢 Whyman: I believe within a year. We need a stronger case for bus investment across South Yorkshire to government. That has clearly been lacking from Labour. As well as government funding, the Employers’ Workplace Parking Levy could contribute to the investment we need to fully fund a fleet of electric buses.

How will you work to close the gender and ethnicity pay gaps?

🔵 Biltcliffe: Pay and employment should be based on meritocratic principles. I think we have a once in a generation opportunity to make a step change in equality with the demand for talent and I would use every bit of leverage I would have as mayor to raise awareness of gender and ethnicity pay gaps.

🔴 Coppard: South Yorkshire has to offer equal opportunities to everyone. So I'll make addressing gender pay gaps a major part of my Better Business Challenge – challenging those businesses that fail to pay people based on their work, not their gender, and rewarding those that bridge that gap.

🟡 Otten: Pay gap transparency is the first step. Then I would seek to add into the skills strategy work on transparent routes into good careers with a particular focus on diverse candidates. It’s ironic that the MCA itself can bemoan a lack of talent in some positions when it’s supposed to be responsible for a skills strategy.

🟢 Whyman: I would establish a Mayoral Commission into equal pay, inviting collaboration from South Yorkshire councils and trade unions. I would work for a public sector agreement to ensure all our contracts insist on the Real Living Wage for all workers, and demonstrate they have addressed gender and ethnicity pay gaps.

More Democracy & Activism

More Democracy & Activism