New polling finds the public overwhelmingly back more devolution to their cities

According to Centre for Cities’ polling by Savanta ComRes, more than eight in ten people in city-regions support some form of greater devolution.

Press release published on 9 April 2021

Centre for Cities urges Government to fulfil manifesto promise for more devolution

  • Almost 40% of England’s population in eight city-regions will elect metro-mayors on 6 May.
  • Eight in ten people back more devolution to English cities
  • Most important issues for people in cities are health care, schools and housing

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 next month’s election.

The 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.

On average, more than eight in ten (83%) people in city-regions going to the polls on 6 May support some form of greater devolution, with provision of affordable housing (51%), supporting businesses (47%) and providing access to skills and training (39%) the most common areas that people want to see devolved to local politicians.

Support for greater devolution rises as high as 87% in the Conservative-held Tees Valley city-region. In London and Greater Manchester, 85% of people support it.

This overwhelming support to move power out of Whitehall should encourage the Government to publish its delayed white paper on devolution in England and include substantial reforms to the way England is governed.

Most popular policy areas to devolve by city region

Source: Savanta ComRes, 2021

Most popular policy areas to devolve 

Source: Savanta ComRes, 2021

With just four weeks to go until polling day, 74% of voters on average in the eight cities polled were aware that their city had a metro-mayor (or that one is to be elected for the first time, in West Yorkshire). However, one in five people (20%) are unaware that their city is led by / about to elect a metro-mayor.

In West Yorkshire, which will choose its first metro-mayor on 6 May, less than half of people (44%) are aware of the election.

These results suggest that the Government must do more work to promote better understanding of recent reforms that introduced metro-mayors.

When asked to name their current mayor (or one of the candidates in the case of West Yorkshire) 33% of people across the cities give a correct answer.

The Mayors of Greater Manchester and Greater London have the highest name recognition, with 63% and 60% of people in their cities able to name them respectively. The Mayor of the West of England, who is not running again, has the lowest name recognition – 7% of people there can name them unprompted. For contrast, a 2012 Institute for Government study found that 8% of people could name their council leader.

Awareness by city region

Source: Savanta ComRes, 2021

The public generally approves of how different levels of government have handled the pandemic. Across all the cities polled, the UK Government has a net approval rating of +10 (the proportion approving of their handling of the outbreak, minus the proportion disapproving), the city-region mayor has an approval rating of +20 and local councils have an approval rating of +25.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester has the highest approval rating for his handling of the pandemic, with a net approval rating of +42.

The Government has the highest approval rating in the West Midlands (+28), and the lowest in the Liverpool City Region (-8).

Handling of the pandemic

Source: Savanta ComRes, 2021

The public’s top priorities for politicians in their city are health care (51%), schools (38%) and housing (30%).

People’s priorities have shifted significantly during the pandemic. The importance of business support (+12), schools (+12) and adult education (+5) have all risen in the past year.*

Policy priorities after the pandemic

Source: Savanta ComRes, 2021

Centre for Cities’ Chief Executive Andrew Carter said:

“People in England’s largest city regions overwhelmingly support shifting power out of Whitehall and down to their communities. Devolving more responsibility for providing affordable housing, supporting businesses and running adult education schemes are all popular with the public.

At the 2019 election, the Government backed the principle of more devolution in England yet, more than a year later, we are still waiting to see what its plans are.

“As places look to recover from the pandemic, it is vital that the Government listens to demands for more devolution and gives mayors and other local leaders the powers and resources to build back better. People want Whitehall to do less, it’s time for it to listen.”

Notes to editors

Polling methodology

Savanta ComRes interviewed 3,524 residents of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough (261), Greater London (606), Greater Manchester (565), the Liverpool City Region (508), Tees Valley (254), the West Midlands (526), the West of England (275) and West Yorkshire (529) aged 18+ between 26th February and 16th March 2021. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of each city region by age, gender, sub-region and social grade. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

*These figures show the change between the proportions selecting these answers across the 5 city-regions surveyed in 2020 (Greater London, Greater Manchester and the Liverpool, Tees Valley and West Midlands city regions), and the 8 city regions surveyed in 2021. This question included a new option in 2021, ‘The environment / air quality’, which may have influenced which answers were selected.

About Centre for Cities

Centre for Cities is a research and policy institute, dedicated to improving the economic success of UK cities. We are a charity that works with cities, business and Whitehall to develop and implement policy that supports the performance of urban economies. We do this through impartial research and knowledge exchange.

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