Examination of Witnesses

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:40 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Will Tanner:

I support the measures in the Bill to extend the mayoral devolved model to county areas. Up until now, the mayoral model has, as you know, been largely ascribed to urban areas. I think that is a missed opportunity for historic counties in England. I particularly welcome the removal of the requirement for constituent authorities to consent to combined county authorities, so that counties cannot be held to ransom by districts within their area. I also recognise that the Bill goes some way to introducing stronger accountability for those combined county authorities.

However, in our recent paper, “Give Back Control”, we argued for a significant extension of the mayoral model. I see the provisions in the Bill as a starting point to extend the breadth of coverage of mayoral combined authorities, but I think there is a further step to deepen the powers and responsibilities of those authorities, both in cities and county areas. I would argue that that should be done in a number of ways. First, by giving much greater financial control to Mayors through a single mayoral settlement, rather than a panoply of different funding pots. That is not necessarily something for legislation, but it is a matter for Government, and the Treasury in particular. There should be the extension of further powers—this would be a matter for legislation—over local transport, local energy systems and other matters to give Mayors more ability to join up local services on behalf of their constituents.

Alongside that, we should have strengthened mayoral scrutiny panels, on which MPs as well as local councillors could sit, to join up the scrutiny of Mayors around the country—or indeed governors, as they may be called—so that they are held to account for those additional powers. I think Mayors have been successful to date, but there is much more they can do. Looking at international models, the mayoral model in this country has quite a long way to go to replicate the success of other countries.