The Conservative Local Government Green Paper “Control Shift” published today includes proposals for referendums in the twelve largest cities after London to have a directly elected city-wide Mayor. The cities are: Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Wakefield, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, Newcastle upon Tyne. There is little detail in the Green Paper. It does clarify that the Mayor will cover the existing unitary authority area, rather than a ‘city region’ or other sub regional area.
The proposals draw on the recommendations of Lord Heseltine’s Cities Taskforce which published a report in 2007 calling for more elected Mayors. Heseltine, who incidentally will give the LGiU Annual Lecture on the 18th March, called for Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle to have a London style city goverment. He then identified the other cities above as appropriate for an elected Mayor based in the existing local authority. The point of my looking back at the Heseltine report is to answer a question a journalist put to me today around what kind of powers the Mayors would have.
Lord Heseltine proposed that City Executive Mayors would have these powers which are largely additional to the powers of current local authority Leaders/Mayors:
Taken with the proposals to abolish regional governance structures it would make sense for elected Mayors of large conurbations to have these powers. Without going in to the pros and cons of the Mayors and regions debate, if we are going to have the Mayors because the Conservatives will legislate for them, lets go for a model with enhanced powers, as a trojan horse for greater localism. I would also add in powers around healthcare and skills, in addition to the current powers of local authorities. Legislation is a blunt instrument though, the real potential power of these Mayors is the mandate they will hold and the influence and leverage they can wield to bring people to the table and hold public service providers to account. I stress these are my own views, not those of the LGiU, whose 150 member local authorities will no doubt have very mixed opinions when we consult them before responding to the Green Paper.