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LGC view: Opposition to elected mayors reflects concern over concentrating power in hands of one individual

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This week’s LGC reveals the second instalment of our confidence survey, which shows respondents to be overwhelmingly unenthusiastic about adopting an elected mayor in their area.

Less than a fifth said they would countenance the introduction of such a figurehead in return for greater devolved powers. The finding is particularly striking in the face of overwhelming enthusiasm for devolution and reflects real concern about the wisdom of concentrating power in the hands of one individual and the desirability of another tier of local government.

On the face of it the issue may soon become academic if Labour forms a government after today’s election. The party has said arrangements for combined authority governance would be a matter for the councils involved.

However, that does not mean the new communities secretary, and in particular the new chancellor, would not want to ensure clear public accountability for the spending of any devolved funding. It is unlikely typical current arrangements, where council leaders also have a prominent role on the combined authority, are sustainable. As highlighted by Leeds City Council’s outgoing leader Keith Wakefield elsewhere in LGC this week, the workloads for both roles are considerable.

If it is the Conservatives who form a government this weekend, council leaders in Yorkshire, Merseyside and beyond will need to give serious thought to the mayoral model if they are to realise the potential of devolution for their populations over the next five years.

Whichever government councils find themselves discussing devolution with in the coming months, the need to demonstrate accountability is not going to go away.

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