New polling in Northern and Midlands city-regions shows public back powerful mayors

A year ahead of the first ‘metro-mayor’ elections in some of the UK’s biggest city-regions, new polling published today by the think tank Centre for Cities shows there is strong public...

Press release published on 12 May 2016

A year ahead of the first ‘metro-mayor’ elections in some of the UK’s biggest city-regions, new polling published today by the think tank Centre for Cities shows there is strong public backing for the new mayors to have greater powers than local councillors, and to take the lead in addressing critical issues such as housing and transport in their areas.

In ComRes polling (1) of more than 2,500 people across the five biggest city-regions due to introduce ‘metro-mayors’ in May 2017 (Greater Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, the West Midlands and the North East), a majority of adults across these city-regions (57%) said that the new mayor should have greater powers than local council leaders. Only a quarter of adults in each city-region opposed this idea.

In particular, the polling shows that residents in these places want the new mayors to take steps to build more affordable housing – with half of adults in Liverpool (53%), the North East (51%), Sheffield (49%) and West Midlands (48%), and two in five in Greater Manchester (38%) saying this should be one of the top 3 priorities for mayors in their first 100 days in office.

Investing in rail and road networks was also highlighted as a key issue for the new mayors in most city-regions, with half of adults in the North East (51%), Liverpool (49%) and Sheffield (48%) ranking this in their top three priorities for the new mayor in his/her first 100 days. But the polling shows that ‘Oyster-style’ smart ticketing for public transport is not a seen as an immediate priority by the public – with only 3% of adults across all city-regions saying this issue should be at the top of new mayors’ to-do lists.

However, the Centre for Cities has warned that in order to demonstrate strong leadership, new Mayors will need to navigate the constraints of the Government’s devolution deals – which also introduce cabinets of local councillors in each city-region, who can veto some mayoral decisions with a two thirds majority. To be effective, the new mayors will have to work with local councillors, while also taking advantage of the significant mandate given to them by voters.

Commenting on the polling, Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of the Centre for Cities, said:

“Critics of the Government’s devolution agenda often deride the new metro-mayors as a top-down imposition on UK cities – but this polling shows there is clear public support for strong mayors to take the lead in their city-region, and to act on behalf of local residents in addressing important issues such as housing and transport.

“While checks-and-balances are rightly built into the devolution deals, it’s vital that mayors have genuine scope to take decisive action to support job creation, build homes and raise wages in their city-regions. For that to happen, councillors should exercise their veto sparingly.

“The impetus will also be on the new mayors to take full advantage of their considerable mandate – having been elected by hundreds of thousands of people – to act boldly and decisively, so that they can deliver on the issues that can make the biggest difference to people living in places like Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool.”


For more information, or to arrange an interview with Alexandra Jones, please contact Brian Semple, Press Manager for the Centre for Cities, on 0207 803 4316 / 07595 439 638 or


(1)  ComRes interviewed 2,538 British adults online within the wider ‘city-regions’ of Manchester (n=506), Sheffield (n=504), Liverpool (n=503), North East (n=511) and West Midlands (n=514) between 8th and 18th April 2016. Respondents were sampled to be representative by age and gender of adults aged 18+ living in their respective city-region. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. More details of the polling results can be found at:

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. For more information, please visit

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