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17.03.17

Kerslake: Jury is out on how ‘grudgingly accepted’ devo mayors will be received

The jury is out on how some of the new metro mayors will be received when they are elected in May, Lord Kerslake has told PSE, as many of them have been “grudgingly accepted” as part of securing new devolutionary funding and powers.

Speaking to us after his recent review of the Treasury, he said: “I think it will influence how high-profile the mayors will be and how much people engage and vote.”

Reflecting on the lessons from the London mayoral elections in recent years, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, noted that it “had a big profile from the start and was something that had come out from a debate and bottom-up process whereas some of these have clearly not come from that”.

The Centre for Cities think tank has recently set out the priorities for metro-mayors in Greater Manchester, West Midlands and Tees Valley, but he argued that “how these mayoral elections go, what the turnout is like, and how the mayors come forward from the process will be really important”.

“I’m hoping that the mayors will get more of a turnout and engagement than PCCs did. But until we’ve had them, we just don’t know,” said the former CEO of Sheffield City Council.

In the past, Lord Kerslake has called the government’s approach to devolution ‘piecemeal and incoherent’.

Following last week’s Spring Budget, where the chancellor made few announcements with regards to devolution other than progress on London’s deal, Lord Kerslake said: “I think we need a comprehensive intent to move forward devolution from government.

“It is not about bits and pieces here and there; it is about what the overarching ambition and policy is. Are they signed-up to a more devolved world? If so, on what terms? Are we going to see more mayors or not?  At the moment, all we have is the deals that we have, discussing a few other bits here and there, but that doesn’t add up to a comprehensive plan of devolution.”

(Top image  c. Cabinet Office)

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