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First day at the office

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LGC essential daily briefing 

Today was the first day at the office for England’s six new metro-mayors. LGC has been keeping track of their first acts and announcements.

In Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham (Lab) got off to a strong start, perhaps heeding the wise words of the RSA’s Matthew Taylor, who, writing for LGC last week, said mayors needed to set out their visions fast, capitalising on “their first few days, when they are newsworthy and the public has an open mind”.

Over the weekend Mr Burnham announced his first appointments, including naming Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese (Lab) as his deputy. Then this morning he launched the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Homelessness Fund with the aim of ending rough sleeping by 2020. This included confirming his eye-catching campaign pledge that he would donate 15% of his £110,000 mayor’s allowance to the fund in the hope of encouraging other businesses and individuals to do the same.

Speaking to LGC today, Mr Burnham said he had chosen to prioritise homelessness as it had been the “biggest issue” raised by members of the public during the campaign. The launch this morning was due to be followed this afternoon by a meeting with bus companies to commence discussions on implementing powers handed to mayor in the Bus Services Bill. Later this week an announcement is planned on making Greater Manchester “the country’s modern industrial capital” through a focus on the digital industries.

In the West Midlands, Andy Street (Con) is clearly alive to the importance of making an impact quickly. The ‘first 100 days’ section of his manifesto, set out a list of 10 things he wants to achieve, ranging from “reviewing traffic light timings and roadwork plans on the M6” to going to 10 Downing Street to meet prime minister Theresa May to “discuss how the government can help deliver our priorities in the West Midlands”. It was somewhat surprising then that Mr Street also made tackling homelessness and rough sleeping the subject of his first policy announcement today.

In the West of England, Tim Bowles (Con) used his first speech as mayor to pledge to work with Bristol City Council’s elected mayor Marvin Rees (Lab), Bath & North East Somerset Council leader Tim Warren (Con) and South Gloucestershire Council leader Matthew Riddle (Con) to decide “what is best for our region, cutting across the divides of council boundaries”.

Mr Bowles also held out an olive branch to North Somerset Council which opted against joining the combined authority. “Whilst we appreciate that North Somerset Council is not part of the combined authority at this stage, we will continue to work closely with them to ensure we can deliver economic growth for the wider region.”

He said one of the combined authority’s first actions would be to agree a “key route network”, earmarking priority roads essential for the region’s economy.

Elsewhere, Steve Rotheram (Lab) wasted no time in inviting the prime minister to visit Liverpool City Region after the swearing-in ceremony which formally made him elected mayor.

Mr Rotheram said his immediate priority as mayor was to improve connectivity across the region, both digitally and in terms of transport links.

Elsewhere evidence of metro-mayor activity was harder to find, at least in public.

In the Tees Valley Tory Ben Houchen spent his first day signing a piece of paper confirming he did indeed want to be mayor despite the region still being in a state of shock at the way he defeated Labour’s Sue Jeffrey. He also met with senior figures at the Tees Valley CA to discuss the future of the Durham Tees Valley Airport - Mr Houchen’s campaign was centred on a policy to bring it back into public ownership - the establishment of the new South Tees Development Corporation, and new opportunities for additional investment in the region.

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough CA mayor James Palmer (Con) told LGC he plans to speak to the leaders of all the seven councils in the combined authority in the next 24 hours to allocate their portfolios to them. Mr Palmer said he will also this week publish a document listing policy pledges for the combined authority’s first 100 days.



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