New Voice Project director Lorenzo Conti meets York’s outgoing Lord Mayor of York, Dave Taylor. With the controlled outrage of a seasoned punk, the chutzpah of a rock star, and the silhouette of Batman, Taylor hammers home his rep as one of the UK’s most personable politicians.
How did you become the Mayor?
It’s a points-based system; every councillor gets one point, their political party collects a number of points, and whichever political party has the most points, chooses the Lord Mayor. The big political parties get to be Lord Mayor every 3/4 years, a small party like the “Green Party” has taken 10 years to collect enough points, and I’m the first Green Party Lord Mayor of York.
What is the aim of the Green Party ? Why is it unique?
I think the particular thing about the Green Party is about fairness to people and the environment. We believe in a world which is sustainable.
Had you aspired to be the Mayor before you actually became the Mayor?
No, it was a surprise. My predecessor was counting the points and wondering what year he would be the Mayor, but then he moved away and I became councillor here. It’s a great honour to be the Lord Mayor of such a lovely city.
Is it hard work being the Mayor?
Yes it’s a lot of work, 7 days a week.
How would you spend your time?
Every day is a different adventure; we could be opening a new shop or a new business, we could be visiting an old people’s home, we could be at a school, we could be travelling to another city to represent York. I even travelled to China: I spent 10 days promoting York there and developing business links. I also travelled to our twin-city in Germany – Munster – and this year is the 60th anniversary of the twinning of York and Munster, and I chair the full council meeting about six times a year, that’s the serious piece of work I have to do.
It looks like you really enjoyed it.
I really enjoyed it. I would do another year but they wouldn’t let me.
And it’s a way to collect a lot of money for charity as well. We decided four charities that we would support, and we collected about 43 grand.
How was it like living in the Mansion House?
It’s covered in scaffolding in at the moment. There’s been a problem with the building work, and the company that was doing it went bankrupt; the work has been going on for 18 months and it’s still not finished.
So I never got to stay there and I had to live at home. It’s a shame for me but it’s not a big problem; people lose their job and thousands of pounds, so it’s not something I’m going to complain about.
What are you involved in now ? I assume you work here, at City Screen…
Yes I work here as the marketing manager. It’s an enjoyable job, it’s a good place for Arts in York, as well as the cinema. There is the basement bar and there is live music, comedy and other events happening there. I’m also the elective councillor for the Green Party and for my area of the city, which is called Fishergate, and I’m the chair of a committee which looks at things like children, education, communities and also culture.
Does a Mayor have to deal with bureaucracy?
Not too much. The role of the Lord Mayor in York is a ceremonial one, it’s not really making decisions but it’s being the face of the city. The only serious thing that the Lord Mayor does is to chair the full council and make sure everyone is behaving themselves. But the nitty-gritty of the administration is not something that the Mayor has to get involved in
What do you think should be improved across York?
The major thing that we have to improve is the transportation: there is too much traffic in the city, too much congestion. Pollution is a serious health problem that can be killing 100 people a year. I think in terms of art and culture in the city, we have a big tourist population who come for a very small city of 200,000 people. If 7 million people visit York every year, then we can have a better selection of art and culture, both for our residents and for visitors to enjoy. Some of that can be outdoors, in city streets and squares; reducing traffic is part of that solution as well.
What is your opinion about Britain’s education system?
I think people should have a broad education, whereas Britain’s education system tends to narrow people. I like the idea of people having a broad education that encompasses science, art, music, and foreign languages.