Latest Public Sector News

04.12.15

Devolved regions must elect mayors even if one or more councils disagree

Devolved areas may be forced to elect a mayor even if one or more constituent councils disagree with the proposal, communities secretary Greg Clark has made clear in an amendment to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill.

As part of a series of amendments set to be made to the Bill before it goes on to report stage in the Commons on Monday (7 December), Clark has suggested that an order can be made for there to be a mayor as long as at least two constituent councils consent to it.

A separate amendment seems to suggest that more than one non-consenting constituent council may be removed from a combined authority, as opposed to just one.

The government will also be able to make changes to the boundaries of local authorities if it has the consent of at least one relevant authority.

But Clark also changed a line in clause 4 that suggested mayors may have their powers restricted by conditions or limitations.

In an explanatory statement under the amended line, the document read: “This amendment provides that an order making provision for a function of a mayoral combined authority to be a general function exercisable only by the mayor may include conditions or limitations, such as the consent of members of the combined authority.”

And it appears now that elected mayors will only be introduced if the proposal is approved by a referendum of the combined authority’s residents. The “rule for the conduct” of this referendum will be specific by the secretary of state in consultation with the Electoral Commission.

New changes also mean that all mayors will be elected using the simple majority system (first past the post).

As previously revealed by PSE, the Bill now includes a clause that allows Clark to revoke health budgets and powers from devolved authorities without their consent. Care minister Alastair Burt MP indicated that this would be the case in order to ensure authorities stay in line with what the NHS must deliver.

Under a separate amendment put forward by Labour’s Graham Allen MP, any revocations of health functions must be done under the advice of an independent panel, whose membership would include representatives from both local government and the NHS.

Other suggested changes include allowing transport functions to be exercised by a national transport body concurrently with local authorities, rather than jointly.

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