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Adonis calls for Greater Manchester mayor

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Lord Adonis has urged the government to consider a conurbation-wide elected mayor for Greater Manchester with the additional powers of a police commissioner.

The proposal is part of a series of recommendations from the influential Institute for Government thinktank following its tour of cities due to hold mayoral referendums under the Localism Bill.

In a letter to communities secretary Eric Pickles, the IfG’s director Lord Adonis also called for the government to commit to granting council mayors Londonstyle planning powers ahead of the referendums, which should be staggered over two years.

“A serious debate needs to begin in Manchester about the possibility of a mayor for the city-conurbation area which could also incorporate the powers of an elected police commissioner,” Lord Adonis wrote.

IfG researcher Tom Gash said this proposal would be for the future, since the 10 Greater Manchester councils had only just established a combined authority to handle conurbation-wide issues.

“A conurbation mayor should also be considered longer term in other functional economic areas such as Merseyside and greater Bristol,” he said. But he admitted the IfG had found “no appetite” for elected mayors anywhere in Greater Manchester, let alone for a conurbation-wide mayor.

Bolton MBC leader Cliff Morris said the 10 Greater Manchester councils collaborated successfully, and “it would be a bit nonsensical to try to have one person running the whole of Greater Manchester”.

The Localism Bill allows the government to confer powers on mayors, but the report said these should be made clear to voters before a referendum.

The report suggested Mr Pickles should include strategic planning powers similar to those of the London mayor, and that setting police and crime priorities would be “a natural power to give the mayor” in any city.

But the new police and crime commissioners are due to serve larger areas, and Lord Adonis said the latter should be required to “have regard” to a mayor’s policing priorities.

A long-time supporter of elected mayors, Lord Adonis said the two largest English cities after London, Birmingham and Leeds, should hold their referendums first so that others could learn from their experience.

But he added Bristol to this round because “the existing machinery of government is functioning particularly badly”. Mr Gash said this was because the council had a rapid turnover of leaders.

But Bristol City Council’s Barbara Janke (Lib Dem), who opposes elected mayors, said she had been leader for eight years with only two brief intervals.

She dismissed Lord Adonis as: “A former Labour minister who is making a party political point to try to improve the position of his Labour colleagues, under whose administration the city performed much worse than it does now.”

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