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CA mayors' first 100 days: Tangible impacts are few; potential is huge

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The first 100 days of any new administration are about getting the basics in place on which to implement your wider programme while also making a mark with some quick wins that will be noticed by the voting public.

ca mayors collage

Combined authority mayors elected on 4 May 2017

 

first 100 days

first 100 days

These objectives are particularly important to the first six so-called metro mayors elected. The future authority and legitimacy of the role depends on these pioneers, who may find making progress especially difficult when – in the case of some – their organisation barely existed before May’s poll.

LGC will this week assess the six new bodies as we reach the 100 day landmark of the first mayors taking power. 

Mayoral combined authorityFoundation date of MCA or its predecessor CA 
Cambridgeshire & Peterborough  17 Mar 
Greater Manchester 11 Apr 
Liverpool City Region 14 Apr 
Tees Valley  16 Apr 
West of England 17 Feb 
West Midlands 16 Jun 

The West of England and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough CAs only formally came into existence in February and March this year respectively. Their mayors, though both Conservative, have taken different approaches: while Tim Bowles in the West of England has focused on laying the groundwork and building relationships, over in the east James Palmer began his mayoralty with an ambitious set of 32 100-day promises, only about two-thirds of which have been met.

Among his five most significant achievements Mr Bowles cites the launch of a regional strategy following conversations with key local players in business, transport, housing and universities. Mr Palmer cites the announcement of £4.65m in grant funding to help deliver 253 homes across the region.

Housing, specifically tackling homelessness, has also been an area of early action for Andy Burnham (Lab) in Greater Manchester and Andy Street (Con) in the West Midlands. This is perhaps unsurprising as the city centres of both conurbations have a very visible problem with rough sleeping and the issue was a big one on the campaign trail. Mr Burnham began his first full day in the office with a dawn walkabout talking to homeless people on the streets of Manchester and launching a homelessness fund. Meanwhile, Mr Street had set up a taskforce of homelessness experts to develop a plan to tackle the problem within a week of his election.

Undoubtedly Mr Street’s biggest success so far, and perhaps the most significant achievement of any of the new metro mayors, is gaining agreement from the government to negotiate a second devolution deal. He told LGC this, the taskforce and the recruitment of 1,000 mentors to his mayor’s mentors scheme were among the biggest achievements of his first 100 days.

Looking at the number of press releases issued by each combined authority since May, Mr Burnham has been by far the most active with 41 public pronouncements. Sadly, a number of these related to the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing on 22 May, the response to which dominated much of the beginning of Mr Burnham’s term and which he is widely regarded locally to have handled well.

Mayoral combined authorityPress releases issued (as at 10 August)
Cambridgeshire & Peterborough  16
Greater Manchester 41
Liverpool City Region 15
Tees Valley  32
West of England 13
West Midlands 26

Ben Houchen (Con) in Tees Valley issued the second highest number of press releases, at 32. He listed the creation of the only mayoral development corporation outside London to redevelop the SSI steelworks site in Redcar as among his five most significant achievements. He told LGC he had already received 100 expressions of interest from companies across the world interested in the site. Among his priorities for the next 100 days is to launch a major PR campaign to secure Protected Designation of Origin status for The Parmo “a local, much-loved delicacy” of chicken in breadcrumbs topped with béchamel sauce with cheese. He will face a race against time to win acceptance on to the EU scheme ahead of Brexit.

And so to Liverpool City Region CA where mayor Steve Rotheram (Lab) launched his 100-day plan 70 days into his administration. Formed in 2014, the CA is one of the longest established, yet a “personality clash” and public spat with Liverpool City Council mayor Joe Anderson (Lab) appears to have dominated much of the early days of the mayoralty. Among his most significant achievements to date Mr Rotheram pointed to the commissioning of former Treasury minister Lord O’Neill to carry out a review of existing economic growth plans and programmes and launching a business-led skills commission. Tackling homelessness has also been an early priority with work having begun on implementing a ‘housing first’ approach to ending rough sleeping in partnership with the boroughs.

The range of actions taken and plans under way by the new metro mayors demonstrates just how broad the scope of the role can be. Homelessness, for example, is not a mayoral responsibility or one over which the mayors have any direct power, yet concern among voters has prompted many of the mayors to at least want to be seen to be doing something.

Local populations may not have felt much tangible difference as yet, but to anyone paying attention the mayors, particularly in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, have demonstrated their potential is huge. It would be a shame if that potential was undermined by some mayors ill-advised pursuit of schemes widely regarded as unrealistic.

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