Tips to help the metro mayors tackle the big issues in their city regions, including housing, congestion, and unemployment
It’s now just over five months since the new metro mayors were elected in six English city regions. And while the general election and ongoing Brexit negotiations have focused attention on national politics, in this time the new mayors have started working on some of the big issues in their city regions.
Our new case study library provides policy ideas for all cities across a range of topics, and offers particular insights as to how the mayors might address the priorities they have identified for their areas. Here are six examples:
1. To tackle youth unemployment in the West Midlands, Andy Street could look for insight from the American not-for-profit Year Up.
Shortly after election day, West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street launched the ‘Mayor’s Mentor Scheme’, a flagship initiative from his manifesto to reduce youth unemployment. With this in mind, there’s much to learn from Year Up, a not-for-profit which has been tackling youth unemployment in US cities for the last 15 years. It supports young people to move into employment through mentoring, training and by creating strong links with employers. Within four months of completing the programme, 85 per cent of graduates are either in work or training. This could offer insight for Street as to how to set up his new mentor scheme and make it a success.
2.Housing association employment schemes could offer tips for Ben Houchen in tackling unemployment among ‘hard-to-reach’ groups in the Tees Valley
As case studies in our report What housing associations can tell us about employment and skills show, the most successful employment and skills programmes are flexible, designed in partnership with unemployed people, have strong local links with key partners (such as local authorities and job centres) and provide clear information and incentives for participants. These traits are not exclusively applicable to housing association employment programmes – they apply to all successful employment and skills projects. Ben Houchen should consider these factors when implementing his plans for the Tees Valley Hub, which will provide one-to-one employment support for the most disadvantaged
3. Combined authorities can also learn from each other – and Greater Manchester’s approach to asset mapping could help the West of England tackle its housing shortages
In 2013, Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership commissioned New Economy to create MappingGM – a single map which can be used to easily view infrastructure and housing information around Greater Manchester. Initially, the map only showed information on public and private assets but it has been expanded to provide more detailed information on a whole range of factors, from house prices to infrastructure and amenities. MappingGM gives a clear picture of the area, speeds up planning and helps private businesses align their interests to those of the city. Given the need to address housing shortages in the West of England, using a similar mapping tool could help the city region’s metro mayor Tim Bowles in making planning decisions and getting more homers built.
4. Mapping could also help James Palmer tackle traffic problems in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Road congestion is one of the main concerns for this combined authority and the new mayor James Palmer has pledged to reduce congestion by undertaking major works on transport infrastructure. While these works could take years before they have an impact, a quick solution to traffic could come from the use of data. Cities like Boston in the US, or Santander in Spain, are using sensors to map road conditions, traffic and bus delays and provide real time information to their citizens. This helps these places to understand what the major issues are and guide where interventions should take place.
5. Andy Burnham could follow Cambridge in introducing green belt swaps to deliver housing in Greater Manchester while preserving green spaces.
Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham has promised to completely revise the combined authority’s spatial framework because of concerns around its proposed use of the green belt for building purposes. Developing green belt land is politically sensitive but can help cities provide the housing they need, and doesn’t necessarily have to come at a cost in terms of green space. Green belt swaps, such as those brought forward in Cambridge and Cheshire East, allow cities to release low-quality green belt areas for development on the basis that equivalent green areas will be protected elsewhere. Undertaking such a scheme could be a winning solution for Burnham both in terms of generating new housing and protecting green spaces.
6. Mayors can use their soft powers to inspire change and drive development in issues they care about – like the environment in the case of Steve Rotheram.
As part of his manifesto, the metro mayor of Liverpool city region Steve Rotheram has pledged to make the city region more environmentally friendly. As our case studies on low carbon economies show, there are a number of ways in which the new mayor can make an impact even without formal powers in this area. For example, one quick but effective option could be to follow the New York example of challenging businesses to reduce their low carbon emissions by recognising the best performers as ‘top savers’. The success of the scheme was based on it being low cost, attractive to businesses and scalable, and so it could easily be replicated in the UK.
Our case study library is available here. Take a look for more ideas.
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