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LEEDS: West Yorkshire chiefs confident mayoral vote WILL take place in May

LEEDS: West Yorkshire chiefs confident mayoral vote WILL take place in May

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Regional leaders have insisted work is still taking place to make sure the West Yorkshire mayoral vote will take place in the spring, despite recent speculation about the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown on this year’s local elections.

The region is set to vote for its first ever elected mayor on May 6, but as last year’s local elections were postponed due to Covid-19 lockdown regulations, some MPs have speculated as to whether this year’s local elections will have to be put back.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided recently that local authority’s should press on with holding May elections, but at a meeting of a West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) scrutiny committee, fears were raised about the prospect of no campaigning, with some worried at the effect it could have on democracy.

WYCA’s managing director Ben Still told the meeting: “There has been some debate as to whether the local elections will go ahead or not. Government came out fairly clearly saying the May date should remain.

“We, with Leeds City Council as the counting body for that election, are working towards that date.

“I won’t stop speculation and there is always the possibility the election date does get deferred, but at the moment we are working towards the May 6 date.”

The vote will run alongside the local council elections, which were postponed in 2020.

Calderdale councillor James Baker (Lib Dem) said: “I know they’re saying the elections will go ahead, but what are the authority’s views on how you can have a free and fair election if you’re not allowed to deliver a leaflet or knock on doors or campaign in any way.

“It seems to me that it is not a situation where we can have that public debate around who the mayor is going to be and have that democracy around it.

“There are challenges around how we can promote candidates – what can be done to ensure those political debates take place.”

Mr Still responded: “The current lockdown restrictions raise a number of issues, and the main political parties are in dialogue with government over how that is going to work.

“We have those elections postponed from last year on top of these, so that is an active point underway at the moment. We need to conduct the workings within what is permissible by law, and that is the environment we have to work in.”

The functions of West Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner are also set to be transferred to the new mayor. Bradford councillor Geoff Winnard (Con) asked what would happen to the role should the election be postponed.

Mr Still said: “The Government would need to enact emergency legislation to carry forward current arrangements, which would be the case for PCCs as well.

“In that circumstance, the current PCC would continue until an election was held.”

Words: Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter

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