National and Devolved Politics

23.08.16

DLCG insists devo mayors will remain, despite West Yorkshire pleas

The government has insisted that it has no plans to abolish the introduction of elected mayors as part of devolution deals, which are opposed by officials from West Yorkshire and other combined authorities.

The Times reported yesterday that, according to sources in Whitehall, new prime minister Theresa May is planning to end the requirement for combined authorities to have an elected mayor in order to gain devolved powers.

It said May was concerned the new mayors would allow the Labour opposition to revive its support. In the most recent local elections, Labour won all four mayoral seats being contested in London, Liverpool, Bristol and Salford.

In response to the reports, Cllr Peter Box, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “I am pleased to see that the prime minister has recognised that George Osborne’s insistence on directly elected mayors for city regions has been an unnecessary distraction from the important devolution process crucial to generating economic growth new jobs and improved infrastructure for our city region.”

Cllr Box said that West Yorkshire had “concerns” about elected mayors, but had accepted the post in order to access the benefits of devolution.

Similarly, Cllr Andrew Fender, chair of Transport for Greater Manchester, recently told PSE that Manchester only agreed to the creation of an elected mayor on the condition that it could gain control over bus franchising.

Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council said: “In Leeds we have always felt very strongly that the governance model for devolution should be determined locally. Elected mayors have at times been a distraction that has acted in some ways as a block on the meaningful devolution we so desperately need. They were a non-negotiable part of the previous government’s offer, so I’m pleased to see a more flexible approach is being suggested.”

However, a spokesperson for the DCLG denied the rumours, saying:  “Devolution deals will continue in the usual way. Elected mayors remain the best way to make them work.”

Writing for the Yorkshire Post last week, May said her government was committed to helping Yorkshire achieve its “full potential” and this would involve “bring[ing] the benefits of devolution to other parts of Yorkshire” following Sheffield’s first mayoral election in May.

The Sheffield devolution process is also under threat after Derbyshire County Council announced that it is taking legal action against Sheffield City Region Combined Authority over proposals that would see some of the council’s services being transferred to the new mayor.

Cllr Alan Rhodes, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, wrote to government ministers saying that the proposals ‘make no sense.’

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