Political leaders in North Yorkshire and York have said the region’s first mayoral election vote was 'too close to call' as voters went to the polls.

Ahead of the result of the vote being declared at Harrogate Convention Centre at around lunchtime on Friday (May 3), bookmakers had Labour’s David Skaith as favourite to win the mayoralty, with Labrokes offering odds of 2/5 on him and 15/8 on Conservative Keane Duncan.

At the same time another national bookmaker, William Hill, also had Mr Skaith as the most likely winner, with odds of 4/9 on him and 7/4 for Mr Duncan.

Both bookmakers were offering 25/1 on Liberal Democrat Felicity Cunliffe Lister and 33/1 on Green Party candidate Kevin Foster.

Neither bookmaker were displaying odds for the Independent candidates Paul Haslam and  Keith Tordoff.

As voting got underway at 668 polling stations across York and North Yorkshire, local politicians agreed a Labour victory in the traditionally Tory-dominated area which features some of the safest Conservative constituencies in the country, would represent a remarkable result.

Some leading Labour Party figures in the area said with the fine weather and leading more of the 640,006 electorate turn out to vote they were quite confident in their candidate would beat Mr Duncan, albeit by a fairly narrow margin.

Speaking privately, senior Tories said the result was “too close to call”, despite the Labour needing a significant shift towards the party from the most recent local government elections.

Two years ago in North Yorkshire the Conservative share of the vote fell from 53.3 per cent in 2017 to 41.2 per cent, while Labour secured 17.3 per cent, Liberal and Liberal Democrats 17.1 per cent, Independents 13.4 per cent and the Green Party 9.8 per cent.

In York, the 2023 elections saw Labour gain 42.4 per cent of the vote, the Liberal Democrats 31.1 per cent, Conservatives 13.8 per cent and the Green Party 11.1 per cent.

Standing beside Harrogate’s cenotaph with placards painted by his wife Kath, Independent candidate Mr Haslam said he had already spent hours “reminding people to vote” by the town’s busy Prince of Wales and Empress roundabouts.

It is understood while the majority of postal votes are usually returned only about 50 per cent of the postal votes had been returned before the polls opened, with a significantly lower rate of return in North Yorkshire than York.

Mr Haslam said: “It suggests to me that traditional Conservative voters are staying home as many of the postal voters are Tories.”

Elsewhere, staff at polling stations in the Thirsk and Northallerton area reported a “steady trickle” of residents turning out to vote.

After voting at Thirsk and Sowerby Town Hall, an elderly couple who asked not to be named said they had voted as they felt it their “duty to do so”, despite not fully understanding the role and responsibilities of the mayor.

They added: “As far as we can tell the mayor will be some sort of figurehead to get more Government funding for the area, so it’s got to be a good thing.”