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Analysis: 'A compassionate and flexible fan of mayors'

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The new communities and local government secretary Greg Clark has a track-record of championing localism and devolution - as well as elected mayors.

His knowledge of decentralisation and economic growth have been key to his political and ministerial career so far which during the last parliament included stints at the Treasury, Cabinet Office and Department for Business, Innovation & Skills as well as the Department for Communities & Local Government. Before the election he was minister of state for universities, science and cities and has also held briefs focusing on the constitution and decentralisation.

In the past year, Mr Clark helped to secure devolution deals for the Greater Manchester, Sheffield City Region, and West Yorkshire combined authorities, while he was also a key architect of city and local growth deals.

One local government officer, who did not want to be named but had experience of working with Mr Clark on some of those projects, said the new communities secretary was a detailed, flexible, and compassionate man and one of the few ministers who would “walk the talk”.

However, areas hoping to gain wide-ranging powers similar to Greater Manchester without adopting an elected mayor are unlikely to find much support from Mr Clark: he was involved in forcing cities to hold referendums on the model in 2012.

In a speech in the January of that year, Mr Clark said some forms of leadership were better suited than others to helping “cities reach their full potential” and that elected mayors had clout, visibility, and a mandate to make long-term, strategic decisions. He said: “In short, I believe that mayors have the greatest potential of any leadership model.”

In an interview with the Northern Echo in January 2015, Mr Clark hoped there would be a time when mayors of “great towns and cities” had statues of them erected by public demand “to thank them for their achievements”.

Mr Clark’s commitment to devolution and localism go back beyond 2010 when the coalition came to power.

Before entering Parliament in 2005, he spent four years as the Conservatives’ director of policy.

In that role in 2003 he wrote and edited ‘Total Politics: Labour’s Command State’, a 101-page analysis which argued “local government needs to be granted a far greater degree of financial autonomy and self-responsibility”. However, that would be constrained by the need for “a vital and active role for central government in providing mechanisms of redistribution”, the paper said.

In 2010, Mr Clark co-wrote, with the then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (Lib Dem), Decentralisation and the Localism Bill: an essential guide. In his foreword he said: “bureaucratic micromanagement of our public services is not only inefficient, but also undemocratic” and added: “If central government is everywhere, then local decision-making is nowhere”.

new DCLG faces


New faces at the DCLG

James Wharton (left): Appointed to the newly created role of Northern Powerhouse minister. Elected as MP for Stockton South in May 2010, he made headlines in 2013 when he introduced an unsuccessful Private Member’s Bill calling for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

Marcus Jones (centre): Junior local government minister, brief to be confirmed. The Nuneaton MP is a former leader of Nuneaton & Bedworth BC and was first elected to Parliament in 2010.

Mark Francois (right): The MP for Rayleigh and Wickford and former Basildon BC councillor’s brief was still to be confirmed as LGC went to press. He served as armed forces minister in the last parliament.

Brandon Lewis will continue as housing and planning minister. As LGC went to press it had not been confirmed whether Kris Hopkins would remain at the department.

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