The majority of mayoral devolution deals agreed by government over the past 12 months are at risk of collapse, the chair of the Local Government Association has warned.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative conference yesterday, Lord Porter (Con) said as few as three of the 10 existing mayoral deals could be left standing by the time of planned mayoral elections next May.
Lord Porter, who as leader of South Holland DC has been involved in negotiating the Greater Lincolnshire deal, told the event even his own deal was at risk due to reluctance from some of the councils involved. He suggested only Greater Manchester, West Midlands and Liverpool City Region were certain to hold mayoral elections next year.
He blamed the fact discussions had stalled on the changes in government following the EU referendum as well as uncertainty caused by rumours that the new prime minister did not support the introduction of mayors.
“That has given the doubters the opportunity to derail [devolution deals],” he said.
Speaking to LGC after the event Lord Porter said communities secretary Sajid Javid could not have been clearer that mayors were essential to devolution deals, as proved by his withdrawal of the North East deal when the region’s councils refused to have a mayor.
The session, organised by Centre for Cities and the LGA, also heard there were concerns that the mayoral models being developed in the deals would create weak mayors that would be overly constrained by council leaders.
Last month LGC reported on concerns from the Labour candidate for the West Midlands Siôn Simon that under the current proposed governance arrangements the mayor could be excluded from influencing key decisions on public transport, economic development and regeneration.
However, Frances Gains, professor of public policy at Manchester University, said it was “hard to underestimate the power of an independent mandate”.