The first metro mayor of the West of England is likely to face very different challenges to those in other city regions benefitting from devolution deals. The metro mayor will govern one of the strongest metro economies outside London, where residents are more likely to be in a job than the national average, and where those jobs are more productive than those across the country.
Bristol is the economic engine within the city region, and Centre for Cities research shows it is the only Core City that punches above its weight for productivity, employment and wages.1 The metro mayor will also have powers over Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire, which make up much of the city region’s labour pool and infrastructure, and are also home to a diverse range of businesses. But the area’s strong economy comes with challenges that threaten its future prosperity, most significantly the lack of affordable housing and congested transport networks.
The role of the metro mayor will be to sustain this thriving economy by supporting the conditions for growth across the city region, and tackling its potential downsides. This briefing offers the metro mayor three priorities that address the biggest issues facing the West of England city region.
A ‘quick win’ will help the mayor to set the tone for delivery right from the start. Signalling change quickly will show what the metro mayor is able to do for the city region and build trust. The best of these policies are high profile and valuable to residents.
Strategic decisions form the framework for delivering the metro mayor’s vision over their term. As such, the metro mayor will have the power to take the decisions that will make the most of the new geography of governance. While the mayor will be keen to show progress towards their vision, strategic decisions will often take longer to show outcomes, and so careful evaluation is needed to allow for flexibility and to demonstrate the effects.
A long term vision for the city will be the key election platform – it is what the metro mayor is working towards while in office. This should be ambitious, but reflect the real needs and potential of the city. Some aspects of the vision will be achievable within the term in office, while others will build momentum or signal a change in direction. It is important to be clear and strike the balance of where each policy lies on this spectrum.