Candidates face off in hustings as they look to become next Doncaster mayor
Candidates hoping to secure votes to become the next elected mayor of Doncaster have made their pitches in an online hustings.
All of the seven candidates were asked to the meeting but just three accepted the invitation.
Yorkshire Party Andy Budden, Labour candidate Ros Jones and Conservative James Hart answered questions from the borough business community through Doncaster Chamber.
Jones, in a bid for a third term as mayor, said ‘not to change the jockey midrace’ while Conservative Hart told the meeting that this was a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ for ‘Doncaster to change course’.
Budden from the Yorkshire Party outlined how he would help business recover through the pandemic and said there should be a focus on small firms in leading the recovery.
The candidates were asked about how more people should buy local. Jones pointed out that the council were spending 77 per cent in Doncaster against a target of 65 per cent. But Hart referenced the council had previously signed a £1 million contract for a Rochdale firm to provide schools with fruit and vegetables.
The Tory candidate said that there needed a ‘clearer branding’ and strategy to better promote the buy local message.
Budden added a council under his tenure would better showcase independents and aid small businesses who had been hit hardest the most from the pandemic.
On the levelling up and devolution policy set out by Government, both Jones and Budden said they had not done enough.
The Yorkshire Party candidate referenced the hospital ‘that was promised but has never happened’. He said he would make it a priority under his tenure to lobby Government further on the issue if elected. He also backs a national assembly for Yorkshire.
Jones mentioned the snubs for the freeport and hospital and said the Track and Trace being given to Doncaster Council following on from central control had increased the number of people being contacted.
But Hart said that Doncaster ‘had no God given right’ to get projects and mentioned that the council had not shown value for money in a recent bidding process which would have seen millions for town centre regeneration.
He also pointed out that Doncaster Council under Jones had ‘put back the borough three years’ through infighting over how devolution would proceed.
When asked about Brexit, Jones said it was a ‘major source of uncertainty’ for business but said it was an ‘opportunity’. Hart, who voted for Brexit, also said it was an ‘opportunity and said he was confident Government would meet the current challenges. Budden added there needed to be a more streamlined system for imports and exports.The second half of the hustings was set for Labour’s Jones and Conservative Hart to answer questions put to them on the spot.
Both candidates had opportunities to give closing statements.
Ros Jones – Labour
“I’ve stated all the improvements have all come under my leadership.
“Just to restate a few, a 35 per cent increase in business space, more housing, employment levels of record highs, major infrastructure, delivering business growth in employment.
“I now want to see my action plan for recovering delivered for our borough and our region to make a stronger economic transformation, not just bigger, but better.
“Higher tech, higher skill, higher value, a greener transformation to decarbonize our economy, improve our environment and revolutionise our transport.
“That is a transformation of wellbeing, and inclusion, raising our quality of life, reducing inequality and widening opportunity.
“Working with partners to find solutions in the next 18 months as part of South Yorkshire, we will help people improve their skills and get them back into work.
“We will back our job creators and to get Doncaster moving by bus, bike and train.
“I will always put Doncaster business and residents first and I will continue to fight for our borough locally, regionally and nationally by ensuring our voice is heard.
“To summarise, I have a proven track record of delivering for Doncaster. My plan for Doncaster recovery will be delivered, and I will introduce a 10 year business strategy, covering short, medium and long term goals.
“Using a racing analogy, don’t change the jockey mid-race.”
James Hart – Conservative
“Over 60 per cent of people in Doncaster voted against Labour in the 2019 general election – in fact we’re only 1,000 votes behind Labour across the whole of the borough.
“Doncaster and the borough is ready for a change.
“I’d love to be the person that helps bring businesses and communities together and takes advantage of the wonderful opportunities.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for Doncaster to change course and put a plan forward for 50 years because we need to be thinking long term.
“We’re going to need another bridge over the river soon if we’re not careful and we need to keep Doncaster moving, we need to get the cars moving as well, because the longer we’re stuck in traffic, the more pollution is out there.
We need to get ready with those electric vehicle charging points so we’re not leaving people behind with fuel poverty.
“We need to make it clean, we need to make it a wonderful environment for our shopping, and most of all we need to create a better Doncaster.
“So we need to build a better Doncaster together, by working in partnership with businesses and nonprofit organisations and all the other stakeholders across Doncaster and South Yorkshire.
“We can do that and we’re going to bring more business to Doncaster.”
Other candidates that were unable to attend were given the opportunity to submit statements for attendees to read.
Joan Briggs - Independent
We all know that the current climate has hit businesses and the high street really hard. If elected one of my main priorities will be to support recovery as soon as possible, although we are in a time of uncertainty and record highs of unemployment we also in Doncaster have record highs of new startup businesses and need to capitalise on this.
I feel that Doncaster already has exceptional foundations as such and if elected I will be committed to long term projects and planning for the future. In order to achieve this I will be supporting:
* Improvement of existing resources
* Flexible and thoughtful planning to infrastructure investment
* Commitment to a "Doncaster Delivers" strategy
* Training, up skilling and retaining employees within the borough
* Making business support across all sectors and all size a priority
* Encouraging innovation and new ideas to improve and encourage people and companies back to all of our High Streets and markets making them a destination once again.
* By implementing my economic strategy we would see growth in revenue and profit across all sectors which in turn will positively impact unemployment in the borough making Doncaster a town that delivers
Frank Calladine - Independent
I have listed my main aims below with regard to the question; 'What am I going to do for businesses locally'
On this issue it is my intention to:-
• Ensure that any government grants (ie Covid-19/flooding etc) are paid automatically to all businesses who are eligible. Therefore ensuring that small businesses do not fall through the loophole and miss out on these funds.
• Ensure that all small and large businesses receive maintenance grants to improve the outside appearances of their premises. And for this not just to be given to those in central Doncaster. Outlying areas are just as important!
• Develop a centralised directory of all businesses within Doncaster. Listing what services they provide. This service will be advertised so both the general public and larger firms can then access and utilise local smaller firms. Therefore boosting the local economy, whilst supporting the smaller businesses.
(I was extremely upset to see that the mayoral booklet was outsourced to Huddersfield. A local printing firm should have been given this contract)
• Bring local business together by having a forum and or website.
• Work with larger firms to see what skills gaps they have, so local colleges can start to train in these areas. Encourage these firms to have more apprenticeships.
• Have council apprenticeships for the skills gaps within their own area.
• Look into having a reduced outdoor market stall holder fees, to encourage the rejuvenation of our market.
• Work with local government to hopefully develop local start up grants and training' to help new businesses to be developed again. Training in business IT, VAT, Tax, book
keeping should be looked into.
In summary I will do my best for the whole of Doncaster, with the available resources which I have.
Mayoral candidates in full
Joan Briggs – IndependentAndy Budden – Yorkshire PartyFrank Calladine – IndependentWarren Draper – Green PartySurjit Duhre – Reform UKJames Hart – ConservativeRos Jones – Labour