A massive overhaul of local government should combine with a radical new approach to growth at Westminster to get the economy growing again outside of London, Lord Heseltine believes.
The Tory peer is keen to revive the idea of introducing ‘conurbation mayors’ across the country – Boris Johnson-style figures who are directly-elected by the public, and would lead entire economic areas such as Leeds or Sheffield City Region.
He also called for smaller district councils, like those spread across North Yorkshire, to be abolished, and replaced with a more efficient single authority covering the whole area.
And he demanded an end to the practice at many local councils of holding elections every May – calling instead for them to be held once every four years, uniformly.
Elected mayors were widely rejected in referendums earlier this year, and Lord Heseltine has previously told the Yorkshire Post he believes holding polls over the issue was a mistake.
His new report highlights how elected mayors were simply introduced in Leicester and Liverpool without a public vote, and calls for an “urgent consultation” to see if other local authorities wish to do the same.
“I was disappointed more cities did not choose to opt for a Mayor,” he stated.
“I believe this issue needs to be revisited to give our cities the influence and leadership commonly found in similar economies.”
Just as important in the Tory peer’s plan for growth is a shake-up at Westminster.
Every Cabinet Minister, he said, must be assigned to a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) around the country and spend time in the area every month listening to local issues and concerns.
The same should apply to the most senior civil servants running their departments.
Lord Heseltine also called for a National Growth Council to be set up, chaired by the Prime Minister and responsible for delivering a targeted growth strategy for which it must be held to account.
And presciently for Yorkshire, which is looking to capitalise on its potential as a centre for green energy industries, he demanded an end to the years of inaction over long-term energy policy.