There is overwhelming public support for devolution to many of England’s largest cities according to Centre for Cities’ polling by Savanta ComRes ahead of the metro mayor elections in May 2021.
This polling was commissioned to understand the impact of devolution and the offices of Mayor in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater London, Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, the West Midlands, the West of England and West Yorkshire.
Across all regions, three quarters (74%) of respondents were aware that their city region has an elected mayor or is about to elect a mayor.
Respondents in West Yorkshire are least likely to be aware that the region is electing its first mayor (44% vs. 50% who are unaware). However, there are still significant variance across the other regions where the mayor is more established, as awareness rises to 87% in Greater Manchester compared to just two thirds (66%) in the West of England.
Greater Manchester (63%) and Greater London (60%) are the only regions where more than half of respondents are able to correctly name the mayor of their city.
Unsurprisingly given the overall low awareness of the election itself, very few respondents in West Yorkshire were able to name any of the candidates (4%).
In the Liverpool City Region and the West of England, respondents were more likely to give an incorrect answer than the correct one. There appears to be some confusion, especially in Bristol and Liverpool itself, about the difference between the mayor of the city and the mayor of the city region.
While around two in five respondents say they approve of the UK government’s (46%), their local council’s (43%) and their city region’s mayor’s (37%) handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, respondents were around twice as likely to say they disapprove of the UK government than their local council’s/mayor’s handling of the outbreak (36% vs. 18% and 17% respectively).
The UK government’s net approval ratings differs significantly by region ranging from -8 in the Liverpool City Region to +28 in the West Midlands.
There is also significant difference in the performance of the local mayors. Interestingly given their higher name recognition than the other mayors, Sadiq Khan (+7) and Andy Burnham (+42) sit on opposite ends of the approval ratings in relation to their handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. Andy Burnham and Ben Houchen in the Tees Valley were the only mayors to receive a higher approval rating than their local councils.
In comparison, the local councils are all performing relatively consistently, with approval rates ranging from +21 in Greater London and the Liverpool city region to +35 in the West of England.
Approximately one in five respondents say health care provision (22%) should be the most important priority for politicians in their city, more than any other policy area tested.
After health care provision, respondents were most likely to rank schools and education among their top three priorities (38%) which has moved above housing, social care provision and emergency services since the last wave of the research.
The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is clear with an increase in the proportion ranking business support and inward investment as a top three priority (24%, up from 12%), while transport has seen a comparable drop (16%, down from 30%).
There is strong public support across all the city regions polled for more devolution. On average 83% of people in city regions going to the polls on 6 May support giving more powers to their mayor. The share of people supporting more devolution ranges from 74% in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to 87% in Tees Valley.
Between 43% and 55% respondents from across the 8 city regions say the Mayor should have more direct responsibility over providing affordable housing.
In line with the finding that respondents in Tees Valley are most likely to see business support and inward investment as a priority for their city, they are also most likely to say they would like to see their mayor have more direct responsibility for supporting businesses (55% vs. 47% overall).
Along with the West of England (46%), these are the only two regions that are more likely to say this than to say they would like to see more direct responsibility over providing affordable housing.