60 seconds with… local growth minister Andrew Percy
How will the DCLG be promoting this year’s mayoral elections?
As we gear up to devolve crucial powers and funding to six of the country’s regions, we’ve created a campaign to help raise awareness of the mayoral elections on 4 May. The ‘Our Mayor’ campaign involves social media, outdoor advertising and radio content that is carefully tailored to each local area.
We’ve also been working closely with communications teams in each combined authority to support this historic transfer of power and encourage residents to turn out and vote.
Why are these elections so important?
On 4 May there will be a huge shift in the way we run our country. Swathes of power will be devolved from central government to new combined authority mayors in six of England’s regions.
These mayors, along with the combined authorities, will have new powers over housing, transport and skills in the region. They will also have control over an investment fund of hundreds of millions of pounds over 30 years to encourage economic growth.
This is significant because this could mean a new or better-paid job, a chance to get on the property ladder or an easier journey to work for local people. Handing brand new powers to these directly-elected mayors will make sure that people who know their region best get to make the decisions that matter.
What will the mayors mean for public services in the regions?
Mayors will play a key role in the delivery of public services. For example, they will have the power to improve transport links through bus franchising, improving access to jobs; unlocking sites for development; attracting businesses; and giving people access to skills, education and training.
Mayors will also have the power to bring key stakeholders together – including local councils and community groups – to reform public services and identify opportunities to improve delivery.
What do these new local leaders mean for British democracy?
Firstly, people aren’t just voting for another politician. They’re voting to take control of decisions that matter to them locally.
Each candidate will set out what they’ll do, how they’ll create more jobs and build more affordable homes for residents. But the real power is with local people at the ballot box. By simply casting a vote, local people are choosing who is best placed to make these decisions for the local area.
Secondly, the mayor will be a powerful leader and will be able to represent the region on the world stage. For example, just as the mayor of London currently represents the capital, these new mayors will be a clear voice to speak out for their area.
Finally, our bottom-up approach has allowed local people to set the agenda and ensure we’re devolving the right powers to the right places. Devolution deals are bespoke and the pace at which they are agreed is guided by local ideas and ambitions, not a pre-set timetable by government.
How significant will the success of these initial mayors be in unlocking further devolution?
The government remains committed to devolving powers to local areas, but our current priority must be to implement the existing devolution deals ahead of the first mayoral elections.
Once the first six mayors are in place, it will give us a starting point to start assessing their success, but each devolution deal is unique and has to be judged on its own achievements. We’ve been clear that devolution proposals must be locally-led and have strong local support.
What is the direction of travel for local government devolution, especially in light of Brexit?
As we face the opportunities ahead of us, we all want to see a Britain that is stronger than it is today. Our Plan for Britain has outlined how we will make Britain a country that works for everyone up and down the country, not just the privileged few. This means that every part of the country needs to fulfil its potential.
This government is committed to devolving greater powers away from Whitehall, which will help to drive local and national growth. Devolution is also a way of reconnecting communities with decisions that affect their daily lives, to create an economy that works for everyone.
(Image: c. Conservatives)