Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority (Election of Mayor) Order 2016 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:05 pm on 18 July 2016.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 8:05, 18 July 2016

I shall also speak to the West Midlands Combined Authority (Election of Mayor) Order 2016. The draft orders, if approved, will create the position of mayor for both the Sheffield City Region and the West Midlands Combined Authority, with the first elections in these areas to be held in May 2017; and set the first mayoral term for a duration of three years, with the next election in May 2020, with subsequent four-year terms. The Government committed in their manifesto to,

“devolve far-reaching powers over economic development, transport and social care to large cities which choose to have directly-elected mayors”.

To give effect to this commitment, the Government passed the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act earlier this year. As I set out to the House during the passage of this enabling legislation, the Government have introduced clauses to allow directly elected mayors for combined authority areas because devolution of the ambition and scale set out in the Government’s manifesto requires strong, clear accountability and leadership. It is necessary that, when major powers and budgets are being devolved, local people know who is responsible for decisions. Mayoral governance offers a proven model for effective local leadership which has worked around the world.

On the Sheffield City Region, this order is a milestone in the implementation of the devolution deal agreed between the Government and local leaders on 2 October 2015. It follows the establishment of the combined authority on 1 April 2014, from which time it has been serving the Sheffield city region, bringing together across the area the closely interconnected issues of transport, economic development and regeneration. On 2 October 2015, the Government and combined authority announced a devolution agreement which provided an offer of powers and budgets from government on the basis that the area will deliver certain reforms and measures, including adopting a directly elected mayor covering the whole of the combined authority area. This agreement included that the mayor for the Sheffield City Region would be responsible for a consolidated, devolved transport settlement; following the introduction of the necessary primary legislation, be responsible for the franchised bus services, which in turn will support the combined authority’s delivery of smart and integrated ticketing across the combined authority’s constituent councils; take on responsibility for an identified key route network of local authority roads; and have responsibility for strategic planning, including the responsibility to create a spatial framework for the city region.

In turn, the combined authority of Sheffield City Region takes on responsibility for devolved funding—that is £30 million a year over 30 years; control of the devolved 19-plus adult skills funding by 2018-19; joint responsibility with the Government to co-design employment support for harder-to-help claimants; and a devolved approach to business support from 2017, to be developed in partnership with government. In addition, the Government agreed to pilot a scheme in the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority that will allow the area to retain 100% of any business rate growth beyond that forecast. It will also enable the combined authority to create an investment fund of £900 million through the 30-year gain share funding. In return, the area has agreed appropriate governance for these new powers and budgets, centred on a combined authority and a directly elected mayor providing the vital, sharp, single point of accountability that is essential if such wide-ranging powers and budgets are to be handed to the area.

The West Midlands order is a milestone in the implementation of the devolution deal agreed between the Government and local leaders on 17 November 2015. The first step in implementing this deal was made on 17 June 2016, when the combined authority was established, with powers over transport, economic development and regeneration. On 17 November 2015, the Government and the leaders of the West Midlands announced a devolution agreement which provided an offer of powers and budgets from the Government on the basis that the area would deliver certain reforms and measures, including adopting a directly elected mayor covering the whole combined authority area.

The agreement included that the mayor for the West Midlands would individually exercise some functions in relation to transport and strategic planning, and the combined authority would take on responsibility for: devolved funding of £36.5 million a year over 30 years for the West Midlands area; control of the devolved 19-plus adult skills funding by 2018-19; joint responsibility with the Government to codesign employment support for harder-to-help claimants; and a devolved approach to business support from 2017, to be developed in partnership with the Government. It will also enable the combined authority to create an investment fund of over £1 billion through the 30-year revenue stream and locally raised finance. In return, the area has agreed appropriate governance for these new powers and budgets, centred on a combined authority and a directly elected mayor providing that vital, sharp, single point of accountability to which I referred in relation to the Sheffield City Region.

In delivering the full range of commitments in the devolution deal, the Secretary of State intends, subject to statutory requirements and parliamentary approval, to make further orders to implement the deal. Subsequent orders will include the transfer of budgets and powers over planning, transport, education and skills.

These draft orders establish mayors for both the Sheffield City Region and the West Midlands, set out the dates of elections, and set the first and subsequent term lengths. The orders are laid before Parliament following the statutory process specified in the 2009 Act, as amended by the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. As required, all the constituent councils in the combined authorities have consented to these orders being made. As required, we are now seeking Parliament’s approval before making these orders.

These orders are about delivering devolution and empowering local authorities to set their own policy agendas. They provide enhanced local leadership in the form of directly elected mayors, with a strong democratic mandate and independence from the combined authority. The mayors will work closely with local leaders, who will sit on the combined authority boards. Together they will drive forward the economic opportunities presented by devolution, with the mayor acting as chairman or chairwoman of the combined authority and providing a single voice for the area that can both be prominent nationally and help drive the devolution agenda.

As noble Lords may recall, in the passage of the enabling legislation for this order, there was debate on the necessity of mayors in devolving powers to local areas. The Government have made their position clear on the necessity of mayors. However, the Government are not alone in this belief. Research commissioned by the Centre for Cities in May 2016 found that members of the public across five devolution deal areas surveyed supported the notion that directly elected mayors should have greater powers than local council leaders.

That said, it is important to note that no one area has been required to adopt the mayoral model. The Government’s position is that if an area is to have a mayor it will be because that area, through its democratically elected representatives, has chosen to have one. However, the Government view the devolution deal as a two-way process. As such, it is the Government’s clear intention that the accountability offered by a mayor is desirable and therefore this forms part of the devolution deals that have been agreed between the Government and local leaders.

The Government are making excellent progress in implementing their devolution agenda. An order establishing the position of mayor in Greater Manchester was made on 29 March 2016. As noble Lords will recall, last week the Grand Committee debated orders to establish the position of mayor for the Liverpool City Region and for Tees Valley. An order to establish the position of mayor for the north-east has also been laid. All these areas are scheduled to hold their first mayoral elections on 4 May 2017.

In conclusion, if these draft orders are approved it will open the way for the full implementation of the devolution deals for the Sheffield City Region and the West Midlands. They are therefore a significant milestone in devolving powers to local areas, leading to greater prosperity, more balanced economies and economic success across the Sheffield City Region, the West Midlands and, indeed, the country.

We are committed to this devolution agenda because it gives a real opportunity for areas to assume powers and budgets, which will help those areas achieve their potential, take control of their growth and, importantly, have a positive impact on the lives of local citizens. These orders will provide both the Sheffield City Region and the West Midlands with a strong voice and an effective leader who can deliver for the local area and help rebalance the economy of the country as a whole. I therefore commend these draft orders to the House.