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Devolution bill paves the way for imposition of elected mayors

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Directly elected mayors could be imposed on combined authorities even if one of the member councils is opposed to the idea, under proposals set out in Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill published this morning.

The bill, referred to in this week’s Queen’s speech but published in full today, said the communities secretary could enforce the adoption of the elected mayor model and would have the power to remove the dissenting council from the combined authority.

The legislation said an order could be made if “the appropriate authorities consent apart from one non-consenting constituent council”. It added, where that happens the secretary of state “must…remove the area of the non-consenting constituent council from the existing area of the combined authority”.

The election of a mayor will be by a public vote, the bill confirmed.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that combined authorities with elected mayors are to be funded through another precept on the council tax bill.

The legislation said a precept can “only” be raised “in relation to expenditure incurred by the mayor for the authority’s area in, or in connection with, the exercise of mayoral functions”.

The bill also paves the way for combined authorities to take on local authority functions but appeared to suggest this would not include county or district councils.

Announcing the bill, communities secretary Greg Clark said the bill would deliver Greater Manchester’s devolution deal, which includes greater power over health and social care, and “set the wheels in motion for other areas to follow”.

He said: “We’re determined to end the hoarding of power in Whitehall and rebalance our economy – unlocking local flair so our cities, towns and counties can reach their full potential and become their own economic powerhouses up and down the country.”

Northern powerhouse minister James Wharton said: “The bill provides a huge opportunity for the North of England to tap into its enormous potential to attract firms and create jobs.”

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