Northern regions agree in principle to an elected mayor to gain devolved powers

James Nickerson
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Osborne said he would not force devolution on regions, but they must accept a mayor if they want new powers (Source: Getty)

Northern regions have accepted in principle the idea of having directly elected mayors in order to secure devolved powers, after months of reluctance on the parts of local councils.

After the General Election, chancellor George Osborne committed to devolving powers over transport and health, as well as giving regions some fiscal autonomy if they were willing to accept an elected mayor.

The chancellor had given regions until Friday to submit proposals for new powers.

Read more: Devolution is coming - Now the Midlands needs to make the most of it

Although Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield voted against mayors in 2012, the councils found “the potential benefits are now so substantial they have a duty to residents to give it serious consideration”, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said in a statement.

However, “they will not stand for the government using devolution to impose a mayor while keeping the real power in Whitehall or simply devolv[ing] the task and responsibility for implementing austerity measures”.

The revelations come after Greater Manchester received new powers over transport, housing and skills in exchange for an elected mayor. Acceptance also follows Cornwall being given greater control over employment, transport and health in July, but without the provision of an elected mayor.

Read more: Does size matter? English devolution may not lead to productivity gains, admits Treasury secretary Lord Jim O'Neill

The North East Combined Authority had previously confirmed it wanted to begin “detailed devolution negotiations”, adding it will also “consider appropriate models of governance, including an elected mayor”, the seven leaders of the councils wrote in a letter to Greg Clark, the communities and local government secretary.

Tees Valley has also submitted a plan for devolution, with strong backing from business groups.

Earlier this summer, the chancellor "asked cities to give us their ideas for how they could take greater control of their own affairs and be a full part of the Northern Powerhouse. I asked them to submit these plans in the first week of September", Osborne said.

Whilst I don’t want to pre-empt any conclusions, it is really encouraging that civic leaders from all parties are engaging in this and coming forward with really interesting proposals. Step by step, we are making the Northern Powerhouse a reality.

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