Since Chancellor George Osborne announced at the beginning of November that Greater Manchester is to have an elected mayor in a devolution deal worth £1 billion, there have been debates and discussions around the pros and cons of such a move.
Part of the Chancellor’s plans to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, the elected mayor – who will be voted in during 2017 – will have powers over transport, housing, planning and policing. On top of this, further powers will be devolved to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, including support for business growth, as well as joining up health and social care budgets.
Much of the criticism surrounding the move stems from the feeling that the people of Greater Manchester haven’t been consulted on whether or not they want an elected mayor. In fact, it was only in May 2012 that voters in eight cities – including Manchester – declared they didn’t want elected mayors.
The Manchester Evening News provides a good summary of the pros and cons of an elected mayor and points to New York City, where an elected mayor has made a notable impact. It’s interesting to see the newspaper’s online poll, asking readers “an elected mayor in return for £1billion in devolved powers – are you happy with the deal?” currently (26 November 2011) stands at 73% yes and only 27% no.
Like it or not, the decision to give Greater Manchester an elected mayor is a huge shift in power and should enable the region to prioritise and refocus resources based on its own objectives. It will be interesting to see who steps up to be considered for the role (with reports already that celebrities and business owners are among those who will be in the running), what they campaign for and how engaged the people of Greater Manchester become. Hopefully Greater Manchester residents will be enthusiastic and willing to use their vote so we can all be confident in a meaningful outcome.