MPs say mayors are not essential to development deals
Elected mayors should not be a mandatory part of devolution agreements, MPs said.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee also said in its Progress of Devolution in England report that devolved powers should be the ‘default option’ for regions and that the government should consider including health, housing, planning and education among the powers that could be handed over to decentralized authorities.
The report also criticized what it called an “unacceptable delay” in setting out the operation of the UK’s Shared Prosperity Fund, although ministers have had four years to come up with an alternative to the European Development Funds which will end. in 2023.
MPs heard testimony both for and against elected mayors, that the government was in favor of incorporating our model of county agreements prior to the recent reshuffle.
Officials reportedly told the sector this summer that the government still wants to put in place combined municipal authorities for urban areas, where these are more suitable, while a directly elected chief model is preferred for other areas of the city. higher level authority. Such a model is believed to have gained traction within government on the basis that it would allow strong local accountability while minimizing additional layers of governance.
The HCLG committee concluded that decentralizing business with non-metropolitan areas should be a priority, but “should include sensitivity to local concerns regarding the requirement to have a directly elected mayor.”
“An enhanced public consultation… should take place before and during negotiations, including examining whether there is support in a region for a directly elected mayor.
“If such support is lacking, it should not prevent decentralization from taking place. “
The report says the government should come up with a decentralization framework, the default option for local government.
This could follow the model of Scotland and Wales, where some reserved powers remain centralized and all other powers are available for devolution to combined and local authorities.
Financial decentralization would be critical to the success of the agreements, the committee said.
To improve the financial resilience of municipalities and reduce dependence on municipal taxes and commercial rates, the government should explore other revenue collection options for municipalities.
This should include researching options for allocating income tax or other national tax revenues to the local level, or how a local income tax in a combined authority area might work. He also recommended the potential devolution of a tourist tax.
The committee chairman, Labor MP Clive Betts, said: “Michael Gove, as the new Secretary of State, should seize the opportunity to vigorously advance devolution across England and help boost the provision of public services in cities and regions. “
He added: “Financial decentralization is crucial for the future success of decentralization. The government should examine options for fiscal decentralization, giving local authorities greater freedom and enabling them to make longer-term decisions for their communities and to be more accountable to their electorates.
A DLUHC spokesperson said: “We recognize the importance of delegating power and money to Whitehall. Our decentralization program is one of the most important of recent decades, which includes the nine agreements of mayors of combined authority.
“The government will issue a white paper on leveling up that will advance our central mission of leveling every corner of the UK, laying out more details on future decentralization and our plans to strengthen responsible local leadership.”