William Eichler 10 April 2017

Mayors can ‘transform’ city regions but need more power, report says

The new metro mayors will have the power to transform their city regions, but there has been little policy development for this purpose, progressive think tank says.

In May citizens in Greater Manchester, the Liverpool city region, Tees Valley, the West Midlands, the West of England, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will elect new mayors.

The directly elected mayors, part of the Government’s broader devolution agenda, will govern a combined total of almost 10 million people and economies worth £214bn – more than Scotland and Wales put together.

The think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has published a new report which warns that little has been done to prepare for what will be a radical overhaul of local democracy.

In order to fill this gap, England’s new leaders: How mayors can transform their cities, lays out three ‘enabling policies’ mayors need to introduce: cutting across local and national silos to deliver against clear objectives, raising finance to invest, and gathering intelligence in order to enable innovation.

The paper’s authors also set down 30 policies which they argue should deliver across broad outcomes, such as inclusive growth, infrastructure, a healthy environment, effective public services, and inclusive democracy.

Of the 30 policies, the paper argues five should be prioritised. Mayors should become living wage champions and set out an employer charter on job quality. They should also set up a welfare earnback company to secure ‘job guarantees’ for the long-term unemployed.

On top of these two policies, the metro mayors should implement bus franchising, embed health in all policy, and spend a small share of their funds through participatory budgeting.

The report concludes that mayors should work together to drive further devolution and by 2020 Whitehall should strike a new series of devolution deals, prioritising fiscal devolution, and giving mayoral combined authorities across the country the powers to support their industrial strategy and public service reform.

Will the rise of elected mayors lead to a rebirth of local democracy? Read our recent feature here.

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