Last week, Liverpool’s councilors voted to bypass a referendum and go ahead with a May election for a Liverpool Mayor. While it’s not the Mayor for Merseyside the Centre for Cities has advocated, Liverpool’s eagerness to embrace the mayoral model – as Leicester has also done – demonstrates that the benefits of a Mayor are being more seriously considered in the major cities than the “no” voices sometimes makes out.
So, will having an elected Mayor make a real difference in Liverpool? Our joint report with the Institute for Government suggested that mayors had the potential to make it easier to be decisive on strategic economic issues, bring coherence to the actions of the public sector, collaborate with other partners and to represent their cities to the public and private sector.
A first positive sign that some of these benefits could be realised is that the city is also now the first to strike its “City Deal” with Whitehall – a deal which is set to come with £130 million funding.
The Deal involves creating a new enterprise zone for the central business district and five mayoral development zones to target regeneration in other areas of the city. There will also be powers to help young unemployed people through welfare-to-work pilot schemes, oversee the development of city assets owned by the Homes and Communities Agency and, using DCLG funding, build six new secondary schools.
Our evidence still suggests that mayors have the greatest potential to be effective when they’re across a travel-to-work area, rather than simply a local authority. And Liverpool has already recognized the importance of ensuring the mayor works well with the Local Enterprise Partnership, which covers Merseyside.
But, grumbles about city-region mayors aside, what is clear is that Liverpool’s willingness to take this step has reaped dividends. While the Government has acknowledged that different structures of governance will be appropriate for different cities, it also seems that moving to an elected mayor was the clearest way for Liverpool to demonstrate that it has the strong and accountable leadership that all the City Deals will be conditional on.
We’ve been working closely with the Cabinet Office and cities currently brokering their City Deals – I’ll write more on how this process is working, and what Government is looking for, later this week.
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