Harrogate councillor quits Tories to stand as independent candidate in York and North Yorkshire mayoral election

Bilton and Nidd Gorge councillor Paul Haslam has quit the Conservatives to stand to be York and North Yorkshire’s first mayor as an independent.
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Coun Haslam was initially elected to Harrogate Borough Council in 2014 and has served on North Yorkshire Council and its predecessor the county council since 2017.

He will contest the election on May 2 after informing Tory council leader Carl Les of his decision over the weekend.

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In the meantime, he will continue to sit on the council as an independent.

Coun Paul Haslam will stand as an independent candidate at the mayoral electionCoun Paul Haslam will stand as an independent candidate at the mayoral election
Coun Paul Haslam will stand as an independent candidate at the mayoral election

The newly elected mayor will lead the region’s first combined authority and deliver schemes worth £18m a year related to transport, housing, net-zero and business.

Coun Haslam told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that standing as an independent will mean he is “free from party political allegiance and dogma”.

He added: “I will be looking at what’s best for people and not what’s best for any political party and keeping all the power.”

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Coun Haslam works as a business management consultant and described his decade in local government as “the perfect apprenticeship” to be mayor.

Born in Lancashire and moving to Harrogate in 2006, he was inspired to stand as a county councillor to fight the unpopular relief road proposals by Nidd Gorge.

He has been a vocal voice on both councils in favour of environmentally-friendly policies and better transport links.

He declined to criticise the Conservatives’ track record on the climate and said the local party has “come a long way” since 2019, introducing new climate change policies and its route map to net-zero.

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But on transport spending, he warned the region is being left behind with London and the southeast receiving much more money to improve infrastructure per head.

He believes the mayor could be in a position to finally shift the needle on transport with increased funding coming to the region as part of the devolution deal.

But for some, £18m a year won’t go far as it is spread across a huge geographical area.

Coun Haslam said he will use his business skills to try and turn that £18 into £180m worth of investment for York and North Yorkshire.

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Policies in his manifesto include building affordable and environmentally friendly homes on brownfield sites, investing in trade apprenticeships, developing a “bespoke” bus service for the region and helping the agriculture industry to lead the way in regenerative farming.

Coun Haslam said he won’t be resigning his seat on North Yorkshire Council to call a by-election as he has received support from residents. He joked that his wife told him he should have made the move to go independent “years ago”.

He added: “I spoke to a lot of residents and some who didn’t vote for me. The consensus is they are happy for me to be an independent councillor. I’ve done my due diligence, one email said at last you’ve seen the light.”

You can read more about Paul Haslam’s campaign on his website – https://haslam4mayor.com/

Who is standing to be mayor?

Conservatives – Keane Duncan.

Green – Kevin Foster.

Independent – Keith Tordoff.

Independent – Paul Haslam.

Labour – David Skaith.

Liberal Democrats – Felicity Cunliffe-Lister.