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The Regional Democracy Think Tank for West Yorkshire

What do the Public Think of West Yorkshire Devolution?

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Recent polling conducted on behalf of the Centre for Cities encouragingly indicates that there is strong support for devolution but concerningly it suggests that awareness of the upcoming mayoral election here in West Yorkshire on May 6th is lacking.

The poll finds that there is widespread support across England for mayoral combined authorities including in West Yorkshire. On average across all of the combined authorities where voting will take place next month 83% of people believe that metro mayors should have more powers.

In West Yorkshire, the survey finds support for the mayor having more powers and responsibilities over housing, business support, and skills training in particular. It also finds support for politicians in West Yorkshire having more say over health and social care and education.

But concerningly, in West Yorkshire less than half of respondents (44%) are aware that there is an election for mayor taking place next month. Even more worryingly, only 4% of respondents in West Yorkshire can name any of the candidates standing for mayor.

This lack of engagement with the West Yorkshire mayoral election may in part be explained by the lack of visibility of the candidates given the restrictions in place due to the pandemic. It may also be symptomatic of a broader general lack of engagement with local/regional politics.

The data from other areas where a metro mayor is already in place suggests that once the West Yorkshire mayor and combined authority become increasingly established and voters get chance to see the work that they do public awareness will increase significantly.

Nevertheless, over the coming weeks all of the candidates for mayor must work harder to increase their visibility and profile. A low turnout in the election will weaken the new mayor’s mandate to call for the further powers and resources that the Centre for Cities poll suggests the public want.

While the ‘soft powers’ of metro mayors is often talked up as being an important element of their role, it is vital that they also command the attention to be able to exercise and expand their ‘hard powers’ in order to deliver for the region.

What do the public think about devolution and the metro mayors? Centre for Cities’ polling ahead of the metro mayor elections in May 2021.

Twitter: @RyanSwift93

"The Chancellor Rishi Sunak signing the devolution deal for West Yorkshire" by HM Treasury is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

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