A New Mayor for York and North Yorkshire

This article was written by our founder Clara for The Yorkshire Post

For years, devolution in North Yorkshire was something on other people’s agendas. The relevance to me and my business was unclear, until a taste of what devolution meant emerged amidst the turmoil of 2020. At the ever rising peak of the pandemic around me, decisions were being made in Westminster in apparent ignorance of Northern risks and financial pressures. The only person I heard speaking for the North of England, was Andy Burnham, mayor of Manchester. I and fellow rural business owners realised that if we survived the pandemic, we would need someone speaking up for us and our local priorities, through the inevitable stresses to come in a COVID aftermath. Someone who represented our local priorities, rather than assuming that York and North Yorkshire were outlying Greater London boroughs. 

I participate on the industrial advisory board of BioYorkshire, tasked with delivering York and North Yorkshire’s ambition to be the first carbon negative region in England. Rural businesses like mine have embraced the challenge. The processes operated by my team of twenty, making natural, sustainable personal care products, in Malton, North Yorkshire, consume minimal fossil fuels and produce little waste. My ingredients and materials are sourced locally wherever possible; such as the kelp in our exclusive seaweed soaps and body creams, which comes from Scarborough. Devolution of funding to catalyse green initiatives within local business like mine is critical to delivering the economic and environmental aspirations of carbon negativity.

In 2024, as the combined York and North Yorkshire authority launches, the issues I continue to face as a rural business owner in the region diverge from those my fellow small business owners in London and the South East face. How do I know? Through the conversations I have with our trade customers; independent stores, garden centres and other outlets who sell our locally made products in London and the South.

In London, if your car breaks down, you hail a cab, catch a bus, a train or tube. Not in rural North Yorkshire. The cost of long car journeys to work and the reliability of your car are make or break for my team. Public, funded transportation of sufficient frequency and reach to take my employees’ children to school or nursery and my team to work is non-existent. High speed rural internet connectivity is patchy, provisioning and pole erection is a ‘free for all’ and Westminster has lost interest in the whole project. Working efficiently from home, in such conditions, is impossible.

Alongside the absence of connectivity, skills shortages are top of rural small business’ agendas. When the closest place to buy an onion is several miles away, the trip to adult education offerings in towns and cities is costly and unmanageable, for my team or potential employees.

Inflated property prices, due to the proliferation of holiday and second homes and low local wages, result in suppressed local spending power and bring disproportionate challenging to survival of local retail and hospitality businesses.   

The devolution of decision making to the new combined authority brings the opportunity for rural business owners like me to feed directly into our local leaders, to whom substantially increased powers and funding will be delegated. I can picture myself travelling to speak to our mayor, to seek a listening ear or support but the trip to Westminster would not have been worthwhile.

1 comment

  • Anne-Marie Breewood

    Well done Clara, for spelling it out so clearly.

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