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Call for greater financial controls...
Call for greater financial controls

By Nick Golding

Elected mayors need new powers over their cities' finances to win over sceptics and to regenerate England's most deprived areas.

A US expert on mayoral policy told last week's Centre for Cities event in London, organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research, that Britain could learn many lessons from his country, where mayors have tax-raising powers and increased autonomy.

Bruce Katz, director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Programme, said: 'Some 41% of local revenues in the US are raised by local authorities. The UK should consider accompanying directly elected mayors with a greater devolution of fiscal and other powers.'

He said the administrative boundaries of many US cities were expanding to take account of local housing and labour markets, making them city regions. Voters in Louisville, Kentucky, for instance, recently voted to merge city and county governments to form the US's 16th largest city.

Anna Randle, head of policy at the New Local Government Network, said if British mayors were given more ability to tackle regeneration, planning, licensing and infrastructure, it could help overcome local government's lack of enthusiasm for mayors.

She suggested local area agreements could be strengthened and inspections reduced in mayoral areas.

'To tackle the resistance, you need to make mayors more powerful. Without incentives, people won't put themselves through the pain of the mayoral election,' she said.

Her words won support from Martin Winter, the newly re-elected mayor of Doncaster. He called for a debate on transferring responsibilities to mayors, as the public holds them personally accountable.

Control and credit: US Mayors

>> New York mayor Rudolf Giuliani took credit for reducing crime by half and the city's murder rate by 70% before leaving office in 2001.

>> Washington DC mayor Anthony Williams taxes real estate to raise millions of dollars for affordable housing.

>> Chicago mayor Richard Daley won control over the city's education to improve classroom standards, and has spent $7bn on capital works.

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