Lord Adonis has called for ministers to make a clear offer of the powers they would devolve to directly elected mayors ahead of the referendums in England’s largest cities next year.
Leading mayoral advocate Lord Adonis has called on ministers to make clear what powers they would devolve to directly elected mayors ahead of referendums in England’s largest cities next year.
The former Labour minister, who has led the Institute for Government’s recent work on the mayoral model, told LGC that holding referendums without this information would be “wrong”.
But Lord Adonis said despite the lack of clear direction from ministers, he still though cities should opt for the mayoral model on offer.
Source: Duncan Phillips
“They should have granted more power before the referendums, but do I think the mayoral model is worth going for on the current powers? Emphatically yes,” he said.
“The mayors take on the powers of the city council and those are very extensive, in particular, they completely encompass education, which is the single most important responsibility of local government.
“If you are the mayor of Liverpool the mayor of Birmingham, the mayor Manchester, you will be in charge of the reform of those city’s schools. There is no more important priority over the next ten years than raising the standard of education.
“In terms of other powers, for example, more regeneration powers, greater tax raising powers, and so on, directly elected mayors will campaign on those powers and they will be in a much stronger position to get them than existing councils because of the democratic mandate that mayors have.”
A consultation on which powers cities want devolved should the mayoral model be approved, said no decisions would be made until after the referendums. It said ministers wanted to hear from those who are elected as mayors before making a decision.
Lord Adonis said he would also have liked to have seen ministers put forward the option of a metro mayor – across city-regional areas - rather than limiting the model to a single authority mayor.
He said the problem was that ministers and cities saw the metro model mayoral model and the city mayoral model as an “either/or”, which was not the case.
“If you have a metro authority you would still of course have the city councils, just as in London”.
“London demonstrates not only the success of the metro mayor but also of the borough mayor. Now what do you want outside of London? In my view you need to see mayors of the cities and the creation of metro authorities - these aren’t either/or.
“What I hope will happen is that if you have the creation of city mayors next May that will lead to the creation of metro authorities that will also have mayors.”
He said there was “no reason” why all ten authorities in Greater Manchester, for example, “could have mayors if they so wished and you have a Greater Manchester mayor at the same time”.
He conceded that Manchester City Council had been an “exceptionally well led” city over the past ten years, with the combination of leader Sir Richard Leese (Lab) and chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein “hugely successful”.
“It is no accident that there is less of a debate in Manchester city about having a mayor than there is in other cities where the leadership has frankly been a lot weaker and less successful,” he said.
Lord Adonis added that he could foresee tensions arising between elected mayors and newly created elected police commissioners - a move he said he opposed - and that he hoped police commissioners would eventually become metro mayors.
“I don’t favour having the heads of individual public services elected. I think you want to join the public services together in the manner of London, where the mayor of London is responsible for police, transport, regeneration, and has a wider leadership role across the city.
“What I would hope might happen is if metro mayors are taken forward outside London then they could be merge in due course with the police commissioners.
“The most sensible thing, surely, would be to have mayor of Merseyside who is responsible for transport, for police and for regeneration across the whole of Merseyside and the same in Greater Manchester.
“But clearly, the first elections for police commissioners will take place and I still think it sensible to have city mayors alongside those police commissioners”.