Kent CC leader Paul Carter (Con) has called any requirement for elected mayors in county devolution deals “totally insulting” as he shared an event stage with Cambridgshire & Peterborough CA mayor James Palmer (Con).
Speaking at the Creating Communities conference in London Mr Palmer appeared startled when Cllr Carter slammed the concept of elected mayors in county areas.
He said: “Counties have the size to act strategically and can come together where needed as combined authorities.
“We do not need elected mayors imposed on us to do that; it is totally insulting. Mayors may work in city regions, but we do not need them in counties.”
Cllr Carter added there was “no way the government would allow unitaries of the size of the major strategic counties like Kent” so he thought reorganisation was not worth pursuing.
“I don’t think Kent should be fragmented and that goes for other large counties,” he said.
“When you look at the disruption in Buckinghamshire and misery in Dorset I would not want to go down that route.”
Dorset will be reorganised into two unitaries in April and Buckinghamshire CC has applied for unitary status next year, though is locked in a dispute with its districts.
Mr Palmer had explained how he used his mayoral powers to drive growth in his area, and noted he had set up an independent review of local government in Cambridgeshire, saying international experience suggested the best size for a local government unit was a population of around 100,000.
He said: “If units get too big you lose localism and people don’t like it if planning decisions are being taken by people from miles away.”
But Cllr Carter urged him to look at how county unitaries such as Cornwall and Wiltshire had managed devolution to parish levels.
Mr Palmer also discussed development pressures in his region, among the fastest growing in the country.
He said: “People are not against development, but they are against the way we’ve done it for the last 30 years or so.
“In Peterborough there was a new town development corporation and it put in the infrastructure first and then the homes and that worked. If you build new homes and just hope everyone will fit into the local schools of course people will complain.”