Yesterday, on 4th May, elections took place across the country for directly elected mayors.
The new mayors, and the supporting Combined Authorities, for Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Tees Valley, West Midlands and the West of England will be in a position to make lasting change for the benefits of their residents.
Our research work and engagement
has shown that manufacturers are supportive of new mayors as this will help stabilise decisions made at the sub-national level and give regional decisions the regional mandate they need.
We have already heard that Tim Bowles for the Conservatives has taken the post in the West of England and results for the other areas are expected by the end of today.
Why do these elections matter?
The power of each mayor will vary but broadly they will have control over economic development, strategic planning and transport and infrastructure investment as part of the devolution
The benefits of this devolution include a greater focus on economic development challenges across 'real' economic geographies rather than smaller political ones. The focus of devolution has been on boosting investment in local transport and infrastructure, both areas put top of the list as challenges and priorities for action by manufacturers. Mayors will also be allowed to add 2% to business rates bills to fund infrastructure projects - something manufacturers support.
What should the new mayors be focusing on now?
The General election purdah period will see these new Mayors getting off to a quiet start, but this shouldn't dampen the ambition and opportunity to begin immediate engagement with businesses on how to strengthen growth in their areas.
Local businesses will be the ones who will pay the taxes, create the jobs and provide the economic growth that will deliver the ultimate outcomes of each Mayor's ambition – higher living standards and productivity.
Wait, not all places have a mayor – what about them?
While businesses in areas with new mayors and with unitary authorities can look forward to tangible progress in strengthening their respective business environments, some English areas could potentially lose out and be at a disadvantage as existing two-tier local government structures limit the ability to identify and deliver solutions to pressing economic development challenges quickly.
Our discussion paper – Manufacturing Local Growth – outlined a way forward. In it we set out the need for local authorities to come forward with proposals to merge and for central government to put in place the financial incentives to encourage them to do so.
There are benefits to scaling up through mergers including:
- greater impact in the delivery of services
- lower cost of delivering those services
- balancing budgetary risk and reward across a larger area
Businesses would also benefit from the reduction in the multiple of voices to just one clear vision for their local area, speeding up decision making and delivering for functional economic areas.
With a General election around the corner all parties need to commit to putting in place incentives for local authorities in England to merge to enable more effective and sustainable decision making on economic growth. If the two tiered local government system didn't exist in England no one would be arguing for its creation.