Ministers should think twice before creating more mayors

A new poll has found that just one in three people back mayors as the most suitable local leaders for forthcoming devolution deals in England’s county areas.

National polling shows that 64 per cent of those who expressed a view on the Prime Minister’s plans to bring devolution to county areas believe that existing county council leaders offer the most suitable leadership for devolution in those places, rather than introducing an elected mayor, as agreed with the country’s biggest cities.

The County Councils Network also reveals that over three quarters of people who expressed a view in the poll said that existing county council leaders should have equal or more powers than city mayors.

In a separate survey carried out by the CCN of its member councils, just three county leaders out of 28 respondents  - one in ten leaders - said they felt a directly elected mayor was suitable for their area.

The CCN argues that its polling results show that the government should not get ‘bogged down’ in protracted negotiations over introducing elected mayors and use the county council leaders already in place to get deals secured quickly – and turbocharge devolution to England’s counties.

Council leaders stress that a mayor should not be mandatory and have called on the government to agree the first tranche of deals by the end of the year so local leaders have the funding and powers to lead economic recovery efforts and level-up their left-behind areas.

Tim Oliver, chair of the County Councils Network, said: “The Prime Minister’s commitment earlier this year to empower our great counties through ambitious new devolution deals is a game changer for economic recovery and levelling-up. Whilst this government has not been as explicit as its predecessors on the requirement of a mayor to secure the most ambitious devolution deals, it has placed a great deal of value on strong local leadership.
“But as this polling shows, the public believe that existing county council and unitary council leaders already provide strong local leadership in county areas. We local leaders have long felt elected mayors were suitable for cities but not counties, and this is a view held by an overwhelming majority of the public. Rather than getting bogged down in protracted negotiations over introducing mayors, we want to work with government to turbocharge devolution to county areas. Time is of the essence and we need as many tools as possible to lead economic recovery from the pandemic, and to level-up our communities.”

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