Osborne calls for metro mayors for the Midlands

2 Jun 15
Chancellor George Osborne has urged cities in the Midlands to develop plans for metro mayors so that powers over health and social care, transport, housing and skills can be devolved to combined authorities.

In a speech in Derby yesterday, the chancellor said government plans to devolve to combined authorities would ‘hand power back to people of the Midlands’ alongside plans for the North of England.

‘At the moment, the UK has one of the most centralised systems of political power of any major country in the world, and I think that model of trying to run everything in our country from the centre of London is broken,’ he said.

‘It’s made people feel remote from the decisions that affect their lives.’

In the Queen’s Speech, the government set out plans to devolve powers to city combined authorities that appoint mayors, and the subsequent Devolution Bill indicated counties could also receive additional powers if they adopted similar structures.

Osborne said that ‘a radical shift of power away from Whitehall and back into the hands of local people’ was one of his priorities for the next five years.

‘And this new law will pave the way for cities and counties in the Midlands to take greater control over all the key things that make a city, for example, work: the transport, the housing, the skills, key public services like health and social care.’

He said the proposed reforms represented a historic opportunity to change for the better the way cities are governed. Although the changes would not be imposed, he would insist on the creation of mayoralties for additional powers.

‘I want local leaders, local communities, to decide what they’re interested in taking part in, and how far they want to go in this new revolution in city government,’ the chancellor said.

‘And I know that one size doesn’t fit all. But I’m also clear that with new powers come new responsibilities.

‘It’s right that there’s a single point of accountability, someone elected to take decisions and carry the can. And that means, if we go for the full suite of devolved powers, a metro wide mayor.’

Following the speech, the leaders of eight West Midland authorities, as well as the three local enterprise partnerships for the region, confirmed they were working together to form a combined authority.

In a statement, the leaders said: ‘We were encouraged to be as ambitious as possible and to move forward at pace. We were also reassured that we are trusted to deliver what is best for our citizens and the national economy.

‘George Osborne shared our commitment to make a real difference for the people and businesses of the region and, in turn, the country as a whole. He supported the emphasis on the added value – ‘the economic plus’ – to be gained in terms of jobs, skills, investment and transport from working together.’

The statement added that the focus was initially on formation of the combined authority, rather than on creating elected mayors.

‘We emphasised our intention to deliver on five initial priority areas, including a shared investment vehicle. Our recognition that strong economic growth will rebalance the economy, not only for the region, but for the country as a whole was welcomed, as was the importance of linking this to the reform of public services in order to improve quality and reduce the overall level of public spending.’

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