Leeds local elections 2023: What the Yorkshire Party promises as it calls for more devolved powers in the region

This piece is part of a series of interviews with local party leaders across Leeds ahead of the local elections on May 4.
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The Yorkshire Party has called on Leeds voters to break the “unspoken alliance” between Labour and the Conservatives, if they want more devolved powers. The party’s co-leader, Bob Buxton, said people were fed up with decades of broken central government promises to the region.

Although he conceded Leeds’ is one of the toughest places for the Yorkshire Party to break through, by virtue of the city’s size, Mr Buxton urged the electorate to vote “strategically”. He said backing the Yorkshire Party would force the main parties to “chase” votes by supporting the transfer of more powers and money to the county.

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In an interview ahead of the local elections next month, Mr Buxton said: “If the Yorkshire Party wins council seats that really shakes up politics in Yorkshire. It says to Labour and the Tories that what we have now is not good enough. It says we’re tired of the lack of housing, the poor economic management and the lack of investment in education.

The Yorkshire Party's co-leader Bob BuxtonThe Yorkshire Party's co-leader Bob Buxton
The Yorkshire Party's co-leader Bob Buxton

People have to think of this vote as a strategic vote. Those parties are coasting and are relying on you to vote for one or the other. There’s almost an unspoken alliance between them.”

Mr Buxton highlighted the government’s cancellation of HS2’s eastern leg, and the scrapping of a proposed trolleybus system for Leeds in 2016, as examples of broken promises. Although work is due to start on a mass transit system for West Yorkshire by the end of the decade, Mr Buxton suggested people should be sceptical about whether or not it will ever be created.

“If you keep voting for Labour locally and the Tories nationally, we’ll keep getting a cycle of promises made, delayed, downgraded and cancelled,” he said. “That’s all we’re getting.”

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Mr Buxton played down the idea that with a cost-of-living crisis and struggling public services dominating the political agenda, the Yorkshire Party’s messages may get lost. The party was set up in 2014 and has won only a smattering of local authority seats during its near-decade in existence.

But Mr Buxton, who’s been co-leader since 2020, said every local issue voters cared about could be “honestly linked” to the perceived shortage of powers the region has.

He said: “If we had a mass transit system already, as we should have, would our economy be better off? Yes it would. If we had better investment in education, would we have a more skilled workforce and lower crime? Yes, absolutely. I think people can see that would be self-evident.”

In 2021 Tracy Brabin became West Yorkshire’s first elected mayor, under the terms of the region’s devolution deal that was agreed with the government the previous year. However, the Yorkshire Party insists that arrangement goes nowhere near far enough.

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Its ambition is for the whole county to have its own regional parliament with a devolved administration, akin to the setup in Scotland and Wales. Mr Buxton described the current West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) system as “bizarre” and a “mess”, claiming it’s still too reliant on Westminster signing off big decisions.

Mr Buxton said: “The powers Yorkshire has now are less than what Scotland has and yet we have the same population. They’re less than what Wales has and our economy is 50 per cent larger than that of Wales. It’s even less than what London has.

“This is lip service for devolution. You’ve got to realise that if the Yorkshire Party wins then Yorkshire wins. We would get more funding and we would get more powers. Then you get accountability and people who are elected purely for what they want to do in Yorkshire – not on Brexit, or Partygate or any other nonsense.

“Labour and Tories will be fighting for those devolution votes. They’re doing devolution but they’re fighting in the featherweight division. If you want heavyweight devolution, you need to scare them more.”

Yorkshire Party in numbers

Current seats on Leeds City Council: 0/99

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Number of candidates standing in 2023 local elections: 8 (out of 33 wards)

Yorkshire Party candidates standing in your area

Alwoodley – Howard Graham Dews

Armley – Edana Niamh McDonald

Calverley and Farsley – Rob Lees

Guiseley and Rawdon – Bob Buxton

Horsforth – Ian Cowling

Moortown – David William Stephens

Otley and Yeadon – Claire Jane Buxton

Rothwell – Sean Francis McDonald