West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin marks 100 days in office with determination 'to do what needs to be done' after Covid

When West Yorkshire's mayor is asked which moment from her first 100 days in the job most stands out, Tracy Brabin recounts a conversation one morning on her bus commute.

By Daniel Sheridan
Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 4:45 am

"A guy came up to me," she says. "It was just me and him on the lower deck and I thought, 'What is going to happen here?'

"He said, 'You're Tracy aren't you? You're Tracy the Mayor. I just wanted to say I voted for you. I voted for you because you are one of us.'"

His words stuck with her, she says, adding: "I think leadership really is more impactful if you come from the community and share the same identity.

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Tracy Brabin became the first female Metro Mayor when she was elected Mayor of West Yorkshire in May this year. Picture: Simon Hulme

"To have leaders who have some life experience and who can understand the people they represent, I hope that adds some value."

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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 an MP for Batley and Spen.

The mayoralty includes powers over transport, crime and planning - with more than two million people across West Yorkshire affected by the decisions she takes.

Tracy Brabin talking to the media during the mayoral race. Picture: Steve Riding

In an interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post to mark her first 100 days in the role, Ms Brabin said she wanted to "champion" the region that she grew up in and is "determined to make life easier" for residents here.

She described how she could "burst" with pride at becoming the first female mayor after her victory and gaining the chance to change the lives of people in her region, saying she hopes to stay in the job for the "foreseeable future".

During her campaign, Ms Brabin had set out 10 pledges that she would look to accomplish within her tenure as mayor.

In her manifesto, she said: "I know that I can use the opportunities the West Yorkshire Mayor will have to make our communities the best to grow up in, and the best to grow old in."

Speaking on the eve of the 100-day milestone, Ms Brabin told the YEP that money had been ring-fenced for each of her policies and work was under way on employing more police officers, recruiting an 'Inclusivity Champion' and creating more jobs.

"Every single pledge has money attached to it now," she said. "All of the pledges have moved on and have actions and have developed.

"The 5,000 sustainable homes, we are using the brownfield housing fund to allocate those projects.

"Every single pledge has money - and not just money, but a compulsion from the people who are now my colleagues and friends to deliver on my pledges.

"We have some very smart folk here determined to follow up on 'why are we doing this?' We are doing this to make life easier for the people of West Yorkshire."

Ms Brabin said she "couldn't have dreamt" of ever getting such a high-profile political role after coming from a working class background.

Now she is determined to focus on an "equality agenda", adding: "My goal is to make sure libraries are still there, to make sure education is still there, opportunities for progression. That is the excitement for me."

Ms Brabin has also been reflecting on her time in the role to date and what she believes she needs to achieve next.

She said: "The 100-day mark has made me think of all those decisions of why I wanted to [become Mayor], to be a champion of my region. It has given me a greater understanding of why I wanted to do it.

"Coming out of Covid, coming out of austerity, I want to do what needs to be done.

"To be able to work with other mayors is so exciting and getting that fair, just and lasting recovery from Covid is in the power of the mayors, the police and the councils."

Speaking of her pledge to create 1,000 well-paid, skilled jobs for young people, Ms Brabin said money had been allocated and a new task force launched in the last week.

She said: "We have allocated £500,000 [to that pledge] and have launched my Green Jobs task force with Northern Powergrid.

"Companies are working together to identify jobs in the green sector for thousands of skilled young people.

"We are going to make the call out to businesses to 'come and be part of my task force'.

"When it comes to procurement, those relationships are really important.

"Let's not forget we are only coming to the end of furlough, I think there will be further unemployment.

"There will be graduates finding themselves derailed from Covid and we need to get them back into work as soon as possible."

One of the main pledges Ms Brabin made in her manifesto surrounded the improvement of the bus network in West Yorkshire - a source of many complaints from the public who want to see quick changes.

A bid has been launched for more funding from the Government to improve the county's bus network, with Ms Brabin saying she is "not prepared to wait" for things to get better and promised changes for residents.

"There will be impacts and changes you will see in the next few months on making the bus network better," she said.

"We will work closer with the bus companies, who have been supported by us to the tune of millions during Covid, to work with them to demand better service whilst we investigate public control."

Ms Brabin is also looking to recruit an 'Inclusivity Champion' to honour another of her pledges.

Explaining the role, she said: "We know there are so many people who live their lives disconnected from their leaders and decision making.

"[The champion] will be someone who reaches their communities who don't get heard by political leaders.

"Whether that is in mother and baby groups, or 'Tell Tracy', going into communities and asking about their views on transport and policing.

"We can really hear and get proper engagement from our communities about what is important to them.

"The Inclusivity Champion will help me identify and build trust with those organisations."

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