Business leaders and campaigners give their verdict on West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin's first 100 days
Business leaders and campaigners have praised Tracy Brabin's "bold, speedy and decisive" work as Mayor of West Yorkshire - but urged her to seize the opportunity of 100 days in office to accelerate her plans for public control of the bus network.
Ms Brabin, 60, became the first woman to be elected as a metro mayor after her victory in May 2021, following a five-year stint as MP for Batley and Spen.
In an interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post to mark her first 100 days in the role, she said she wanted to "champion" the region in which she grew up and is "determined to make life easier" for residents of West Yorkshire.
She outlined plans to get the bus network under public control, recruit more police officers and create more jobs across the county.
Henri Murison, director at The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said Ms Brabin had "hit the ground running" and chosen to focus on her policies.
He said: "On buses, she has made very clear what she can do in the short term but also the long term and if she is able to do more in the future.
"On HS2, she has been very clear."
Ms Brabin has worked very effectively with her colleagues, he said, and plays a key role in convening the leaders and senior council figures involved in West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
"She is particularly effective at bringing that group together around a common shared agenda which is the key test of a Mayor really," he said. "She has very much succeeded with that model."
His positive assessment of Ms Brabin's performance to date was echoed by the TUC’s Yorkshire Regional Secretary, Bill Adams, who said she had exceeded expectations.
"It is not often unions say that about a politician," he said.
"Our demands for the new mayor were clear: urgent action on jobs, public transport, and climate.
"From the Fair Work charter launch to the Green Jobs Taskforce, we have seen bold, speedy and decisive action from Tracy and her top team.
"Back in April we set out a 100-day challenge to the new ayor, to end our broken privatised bus system, and begin taking services back into public control. Mayor Brabin has taken that demand and run with it, notifying bus companies of her intention to franchise buses formally in June."
Mr Adams said he was "confident" in Mayor Brabin's plans to fulfil the government's requirements for publicly-controlled buses.
Not everyone feels the mayor is acting with the urgency required though, with Matthew Topham from the Better Buses for West Yorkshire campaign saying she has "yet to put her foot on the accelerator" of public ownership.
Urging her to seize the opportunity of the 100-day anniversary to speed up her efforts, Mr Topham said: "On West Yorkshire's buses the Mayor has shown her mettle, making West Yorkshire the fourth devolved region to declare its interest in bringing the network under public control.
"However, the Mayor has yet to put her foot on the accelerator, instead pumping the brakes by introducing a further concession for the region's bus bosses.
"Between October 2021 and April 2022, the Combined Authority will be developing an Enhanced Partnership with bus companies like First and Arriva.
"This scheme will leave private operators in the driving seat, with final say over routes, fares, and standards, while also giving them millions in public subsidy."
Mr Topham said the six months could be used to "further the Mayor's long-term goal of buses that work for people, not profit".
"Instead the area's leaders are setting up yet another cash-cow for the very shareholders who have overseen years of fare hikes and route cuts," he said.
"We would urge the Mayor to seize the opportunity of 100 days in office to accelerate her plans for public control, challenging Westminster to work with her to deliver them.
"We believe she can blaze a trail so that the people of West Yorkshire get the reliable, affordable buses we deserve."
Cat Hobbs is director of the We Own It campaign, which holds the view that privatised and deregulated buses are failing communities.
She also called on Ms Brabin to keep Channel 4 in public ownership to "protect the cultural legacy not only of West Yorkshire, but the whole of the UK".
"Tracy Brabin has been a staunch defender of Channel 4," Ms Hobbs said. "We look forward to seeing what the next 100 days will bring.
"We have a fight on our hands to keep another vital service out of the clutches of the privateers, so we welcome Tracy’s support.
"Together, we’re telling the Government loud and clear that their plans are unacceptable.”
Championing a region's needs is a key aim of the devolution agenda that led to the creation of metro mayors, with various spending and decision-making powers handed from Whitehall to those elected.
Having seen what has been achieved in the first 100 days, it seems business and union figures are keen to see her given more control to set the agenda in West Yorkshire.
Mr Murison said Ms Brabin had impressed the county's business leaders with her performance to date, adding: "There is no lack of focus from her on the business community.
"A mayor can create conditions for growth but in the end, it is private businesses which create the jobs.
"Many of us would like Tracy to have more power and responsibilities.
"There are still a lot of leaders and powers held in Whitehall. She hasn't yet been given all the tools she would need in order to drive the economy of West Yorkshire."
Meanwhile, Mr Adams said she had been "inclusive from the start, bringing unions and business round the table to work together on the major economic challenges our region faces after Covid and Brexit".
But he said the limits placed on her powers by the Westminster government were holding the region back.
"We need more money to accelerate the building of West Yorkshire’s mass transit network, reskill workers for the green economy, and recover from Covid," he said.
"The breath-taking speed of the changes Tracy has implemented goes to show why we need more power and funding devolved to Yorkshire.
"It’s the decisions taken in West Yorkshire, not Downing Street, that are changing people’s lives."
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.