By Institute for Government and Centre for cities

Local authority mayors should be given more powers to make the difficult decisions which can support growth.  That is the conclusion of a report published today by the Institute for Government and Centre for Cities, which urges the government to devolve more powers to mayors through the localism bill and also give cities the freedom to bid for metro mayors with additional powers.

The report Big Shot or Long Shot ? : How elected mayors can help drive economic growth in  England ‘s cities shows that mayors have potential to make a strong impact on the challenges that affect the growth of our cities.  But the report argues that Mayors need greater powers to make the more controversial yet important decisions about planning and transport to give them best chance of delivering the strategies that can support growth. These include:

• Strategic oversight of the council’s core strategy (the Local Development Framework) to ensure that it looks beyond administrative boundaries – this could be similar to the London Plan.
• Taking decisions about strategic planning applications which support economic growth, such as major infrastructure projects or major housing sites.
• Chairing the Integrated Transport Authority – we know that successful transport policy can enable economic growth.  The Mayor should play a key role in developing this.
• Co-chairing the Local  Enterprise  Partnership. This would help give Mayors a strong presence amongst the local business community.  It would enable the Mayor to communicate to central government the needs of the area.

The report also calls on government to give cities the option to decide which mayoral model is right for their local economy.  The report states that some cities would benefit from a ‘metro mayor,’ who would govern a wider geographic area to cover the level of the natural economic boundary.  These metro mayors would be most affective with additional powers that take from the most successful aspects of the London Mayoral model – strategic powers over transport, planning and skills, to drive a strategy for growth.

Alexandra Jones , Chief Executive of Centre for Cities said,

Mayors have the potential to improve how cities are governed but to realize their full promise they need additional powers and influence to those currently proposed. Centre for Cities research shows that skills, transport and planning remain the most significant and urgent barriers to growth; mayors will need to be able to tackle these through formal and informal powers.

Citizens in every city and city region should be able to make their own decisions about the right governance for their place and their economy. So we are also urging the government to amend legislation to give cities the option to have either a local authority or metro mayor. Where there is political appetite for metro mayors, they would operate across functioning economic areas and so have the most potential to support business growth and job creation. All these models can and should evolve over time.”

Andrew Adonis, Director of the Institute for Government said,

Central government has a real opportunity in the localism bill to demonstrate its commitment to strong city leadership and to encourage growth by divesting the powers to drive it. Evidence from the  UK  and abroad shows that elected mayors can have a transformative effect on city economies. But if they are going to succeed, government first has to give them the powers to make a difference. The  London  experience has shown that mayors can deliver change for-the-good but only where they can make city-wide strategic decisions that transcend local in-fighting and nimbyism”.

The report Big Shot or Long Shot: How elected mayors can help drive economic growth in  England ‘s cities? was launched in  Birmingham  at KPMG’s offices in  Birmingham on Tuesday 14 June.

For further information, please contact:

Rachel Tooby  at Centre for Cities: 0207 803 4316 / 07748 183 026 /  r.tooby@centreforcities.org

Amanda Ciske  at Centre for Cities: 0207 803 4315 / a.ciske@centreforcities.org

Emma Thwaites at Institute for Government: 0207 747 0433 / 07990 804805 /  emma.thwaites@instituteforgovernment.org.uk


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