South Yorkshire mayoral election 2022: Candidates on if they would introduce a ‘Metro Mayor tax’

Candidates running to be the next mayor of South Yorkshire have broadly denied introducing a so-called ‘metro mayor tax’ if they’re elected.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 8th April 2022, 12:51 pm

Candidates from Labour, Green Party, Yorkshire Party and Liberal Democrats were asked at a recent hustings if they would introduce an extra precept to pay for schemes in the region.

Not one candidate said they would introduce a metro mayor tax but many said there would have to be an ‘exceptional circumstance’ to bring one in.

Green Party candidate Bex Whyman did say she ‘couldn’t tell’ if she would introduce one but would first seek all available money from central government first.

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(L-R) Simon Biltcliffe - Yorkshire Party, Oliver Coppard - Labour, Joe Otten - Lib Dem and Bex Whyman, Green Party. George Torr/LDRS

Labour’s Oliver Coppard, Lib Dem Joe Otten and Yorkshire Party candidate Simon Biltcliffe, broadly refused to bring one due to the cost of living crisis but all said there had to be a ‘dramatic change in economic fortunes’ and saw it as a ‘last resort’.

Outside of London, only Greater Manchester and Liverpool City region mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham have introduced an extra precept for their combined authorities.

In Greater Manchester, the mayoral precept is now set at around £31.75 a year for the average Band D property while for the same band in Liverpool City Region, it’s £19 per annum which has been frozen for this financial year.

In a recent budget update, Mayor Burnham said the money raised goes towards their ‘A Bed Every Night scheme’ which supports homelessness and has been credited in reducing rough sleeping in the region by 67 per cent from 2017.

The candidates speak to a voter following the event at St Mary's Church on Bramall Lane in Sheffield. Credit: George Torr/LDRS

The money also goes towards the extension of the public transport pilot scheme providing free bus travel within Greater Manchester for 16-18 year olds.

The precept also contributes to massive bus reform as a key step toward development of The Bee Network, an integrated ‘London-style’ transport system which will join together buses, trams, cycling and walking and other shared mobility services by 2024.

West Yorkshire mayor, Tracy Brabin, has ruled out a mayoral precept for 2022/2023.

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, West of England, West Midlands, and North of Tyne combined authorities – have not so far opted to introduce a precept.

Simon Biltcliffe, Yorkshire Party.

Here’s what the mayoral candidates had to say about a mayoral precept.

Joe Otten – Liberal Democrats

“My plan is no, people are hurting with the cost of living crisis at the minute and we shouldn’t do it.

“The only way I would do it is if we could bring more money into South Yorkshire and there was match funding from elsewhere – something transformational like buses that is the main thing that needs fixing.

Oliver Coppard, Labour.

“I might do it for that, but in short, no.”

Simon Biltcliffe – Yorkshire Party

“I think it would have to be a last resort to be honest – unless there is an exceptional reason that would give much better value for money.

“But I really don’t think it’s appropriate at the times that we’re going through due to the cost of living crisis.

“We shouldn’t be having a mayoral tax just on a whim, it has to be an exceptionally, unusual reason that wouldn’t come out of normal funding for us to do that.

“So I would say, beyond reasonable doubt, I wouldn’t be looking to do that at all.”

Joe Otten, Liberal Democrats.

Bex Whyman – Green Party

“My views on that is I can’t tell you if I introduce one in my term, I am not going to be one of those politicians that goes back on their word.

“What I would do is make sure I unturn every stone so that I can get funding from anywhere else possible if it’s needed in certain areas.

“But there is definitely funding out there, we just need to grab it with both hands.”

Oliver Coppard – Labour

“No, absolutely not.

“At the moment we’re seeing a cost of living crisis across the country but the issue is particularly acute in South Yorkshire. There are families that can’t afford to heat their homes and feed their kids.

“I don’t in good conscience think I can stand here and ask for people’s support whilst I also saying I’m going to tack on £30/£35, whatever it might be every year to bills.

“I would love to have more money to invest in like the public transport network in South Yorkshire and one of the ways to do that is a precept.

“But I don’t think in good conscience that I ask people to pay that when they’re struggling to feed their kids.

“I don’t have a plan to introduce a mayoral precept, unless there is a significant and dramatic change to the economic fortunes of South Yorkshire.

“But I can’t see this is something we’re going to do over the next four years.”

Social Democratic Party candidate David Bettney and Conservative Clive Watkinson didn’t attend the hustings hosted by campaign group ACORN at St Mary’s Church in Sheffield when the questions were posed.

Bex Whyman, Green Party