As mayor, I’d fight for South Yorkshire to get the recognition it deserves

Rachael Blake

I love South Yorkshire and I am proud to call it my home. I love its friendliness, its warmth, the difference between our villages, towns, and cities, our proud history and heritage, and most importantly the people. However, I don’t think we get the recognition that we deserve, and I want to change that – that is why I am running to be the Labour candidate for South Yorkshire mayor.

This mayoral election is different to 2018 for so many reasons. For one, there has been the ‘small’ matter of a pandemic that has impacted every facet of our lives. Then there has also been a change in the political landscape of South Yorkshire: it is no longer the Labour stronghold it once was. Across the region, we have lost seats at all levels of government to the Tories, Greens and Independents.

It is vital that the next South Yorkshire mayor has the skills, experience and credibility to ensure that plans for transport, housing, business growth, skills and post-pandemic recovery are delivered, and the ability to unite all Labour members, new and old, around a common goal, building the South Yorkshire that our communities love and deserve. Here are three reasons for which I am asking for your vote.

1) Connecting communities

Like many of my generation and background – working-class, the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant, born in the 1960s and living in a small Northern town – I didn’t think politics was for someone like me. Unfortunately, there are too many people in South Yorkshire who think the same, that there is little value in voting for Labour or anyone else as it won’t make a difference. The next South Yorkshire mayor must do things differently and change this perception, making sure nobody feels left behind.

Throughout my career, I have put those who were seldom heard in the decision-making seat, developing radical and transformative services that made a huge difference to people’s lives, turning competition into collaboration, division into cohesion, and enabling and persuading senior leaders across all sectors that they could achieve more by working together.

2) The experience to deliver

I have had a long and varied 30-year career, working in the NHS, local government, voluntary and community sectors. Currently, I am a senior executive in the transport industry, and a councillor and cabinet member in Doncaster. This experience will be vital in ensuring that as South Yorkshire mayor I can get the best deal for the entire region. I am a compassionate, inclusive and determined leader, who will use this breadth of experience to make sure everyone reaps the benefits of having a Labour mayor.

I also have the necessary political experience. When I got involved in politics in 2015, I was elected in my ward as the only Labour councillor. In 2017, this increased to two Labour councillors, and in 2021 three Labour councillors were elected, establishing it as a solid Labour seat in a ward that had a history of electing Conservative or Independent councillors and being where the Conservative MP lives. This bucked the trend nationally and locally. We achieved this through hard work, being authentic and honest, and appealing to many from all backgrounds – something I will continue to do as South Yorkshire mayor.

3) Ideas to transform South Yorkshire

Transport will be at the heart of my mayoralty. Put simply, public transport is not good enough in South Yorkshire: it’s not reliable, it’s not frequent enough, it’s too expensive, it’s not accessible enough and it’s not integrated. It isn’t clean enough, green enough or good enough to make it the first choice for residents to get about. My experience in the transport industry gives me valuable insight and understanding that will enable South Yorkshire to get the transport investment that we need. I will also improve and increase usage of public transport by bringing buses back into public ownership, and champion active travel. Fixing transport will unlock a whole range of benefits for South Yorkshire, it will benefit our economy, help tackle the climate emergency, and improve the health and wellbeing of our residents.

I will also tackle the climate emergency by establishing a community green deal developed and delivered by communities; invest in skills and training for people of all ages and establish a job guarantee scheme; champion co-operative values; work to improve access to our wonderful and eclectic cultural scene; and improve the safety of all residents, in particular women and girls. Some go beyond what is expected in the role but this is a role with huge influence and I would use this to tackle the many inequalities that exist in South Yorkshire, to make it a fairer, safer, more inclusive place for everyone.

If you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via [email protected].

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