Hello PPMA members and friends
In our blog post this week, David Marlow, Chief Executive of Third Life Economics, ponders the questions that local authorities will need to answer if any revisions to the elected mayor model are made.
“With the publication of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, a Centre for Cities blog suggested the debate on elected Mayors has moved on from whether or not to have one, to how powerful the post-holder should be. In the same week, The Economist quoted a prediction from Tony Travers (LSE and London Finance Commission) of six metro-mayors being in place by 2020. Whilst these analyses may be premature, local leadership teams should revisit the case(s) for elected mayors. They should move beyond simplistic ‘to have or to have not’ and bottom-line ‘is the hassle worth the enhanced devolution buck’ debates.
England already has the London Mayor, operating at ‘world city’/regional scale, and sixteen further directly-elected mayoralities. These cover a total population of 3.6 million, including two core cities. So, there is significant experience on which to draw in positing a post-Devolution Bill proposition. This piece outlines two key strategic choices local leadership teams have in formulating that proposition.
First, an elected mayorality must strike a balance between a relatively tight focus on local growth, and responsibility for public services reform as a whole. The genesis of metro-mayor debates, and the content of ‘city deals’, tended to emphasise the former. However, Greater Manchester agreements have extended to health and social care integration. The Bill explicitly allows Mayors to encompass Police and Crime Commissioner roles.
Second, there is a difference between strongly executive mayoral models, and those where the Mayor is more of an influencer and place advocate.
Many existing Mayors have assumed direct executive leadership of functional services (including Mayors of Liverpool and Bristol), with managerial responsibilities for the performance of their administrations. In principle the metro-Mayor may take over (or be assigned by the Secretary of State) singular leadership of specific functions, and may precept for the discharge of those responsibilities. However, the Greater Manchester agreement suggests more a ‘collaboration of equals’ with the Leaders of Constituent Authorities. To date, no Combined Authorities (CAs) have envisaged distinctive operational teams akin to London’s GLA.
The strategic champion of place, influencing major local institutions, chairing the Local Enterprise Partnership is a key mayoral rationale, particularly for local growth agendas. This role has been central for the London Mayor. However, how effective would that have been without a directly-reporting administration (the GLA) with powers and resources to execute mayoral decisions?
The Bill provides a fairly blank canvas, both on elected mayors and on enhanced devolution in the round. The challenge is for local leadership teams – councils with partners – to populate that canvas with rich, distinctive and (nationally and locally) attractive portraits of how enhanced devolution can deliver better outcomes for our cities and communities.
For mayoral impact, do councils and local populations want a local growth champion and global ambassador, or an effective ‘marshal’ of constituent local authorities delivering transformational public service reform? As LAs work up their CA propositions, they should try to answer that question.
David Marlow is Chief Executive of Third Life Economics