Missteps by the Government have led to missed opportunities.
For the cities that voted no, the focus will be on City Deals and taking actions to support the local economy. The government must stay committed to supporting the prosperity of cities regardless of which way they voted. While David Cameron warned that the mayoral referenda were a choice between joining the race or falling behind, Nick Clegg stated that the further devolution of powers would not be contingent upon cities voting yes. Eric Pickles’ recognition last night that strong leadership will look different across the cities and that the priority must be supporting cities to grow to their full economic potential is welcome.
In the longer run, we would like to see leadership at a city region level – ideally ‘Metro Mayors’, especially for England’s largest cities. Richard Leese’s call for a proper conversation on a Mayor for Greater Manchester recognises this.
But Greg Clark’s acknowledgement of this yesterday was too late to make a difference this time round. And if the UK is to have more mayors or metro mayors, then the Government has to set out very clearly why they would make a difference and what powers they would come with, moving beyond more symbolic gestures such as the Cabinet of Mayors – otherwise it will be the same old story in any future referenda.
We’ll be following the results from Birmingham, Bristol, Wakefield, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle but at the minute it looks like it’s going to be a pretty cosy meeting – with Joe Anderson and the PM likely to be getting to know each other pretty well over the next few years.
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