New northern mayors in place by the end of the week

Three new mayors for the north will be in place by the end of the week as the latest stage in the nation's devolution journey continues, writes Paul Dimoldenberg.

By the end of this week, we should have new mayors for the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Tees Valley. Alongside these new posts, comes a combined funding allocation of just over £2.2bn for the three authorities over the next 30 years and an array of powers over transport, planning, development and skills to name a few.

Conceived by the Conservatives, it’s ironic that many of the new northern mayors are likely to be Labour. The devolution deals have been criticised by some and praised by others. For some it’s about “taking back control”, for others they are merely a “cover for local government cuts”. For the pragmatic, metro mayors are the ‘only show in town’ and they provide an opportunity to push for more powers further down the line (as Greater Manchester has successfully shown over the past few years).

It will be interesting to see how many more devolution deals will be agreed in the next parliament and whether the north will play host to more mayors, such as the Sheffield city region. Indeed, many will be wondering what the future of the Northern Powerhouse agenda will be as a whole, post-2017. For instance, what appetite could a resurgent Conservative government under Theresa May have for further devolution and indeed how invested will she be in the regional growth narrative. Time will tell. But I digress . . . 

There has been plenty of talk about the impending elections in the north across the usual quarters, but the word on the street has been deafeningly silent. There is a concern amongst many, including the candidates themselves, that a low number of voters will turn out to the polls on Thursday 4 May.

Once elected, winning candidates will be concerned about turnout, not just because of how it looks, but because of the impact on their mandate. With the new mayors’ cabinets consisting of constituent council leaders, some of whom will be cynical with the new set-up, a strong mandate will provide the new mayors with the authority required to effectively deliver their election-winning manifestos. Without this, the new mayors may struggle to push through their policies and pledges during their first term in office.

I look forward to discussing further the north’s new mayors after Friday.

Paul Dimoldenberg is chairman of Quatro, a communications and public affairs consultancy for the planning, property and energy sectors

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