Cameron pushes for mayors

David Cameron
David Cameron
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David Cameron will call for the North to have “powerful elected voices” as part of efforts to rebalance the economy today.

His intervention will be seen widely as a fresh push for more parts of the North, including Yorkshire, to adopt directly-elected mayors in return for securing significant powers and money from Whitehall.

London mayor Boris Johnson yesterday called for sweeping tax powers to be put in the hands of Yorkshire’s cities as he campaigned in the region.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor have said they are ready to give areas more control over their own affairs as part of a drive to turn the North into an economic “powerhouse” that can compete on the international stage,

Speaking in Manchester today, Mr Cameron will say that together the North of England can have the “critical mass” to compete with the world’s major cities.

“If we join them together as a team and let them pool their strengths, if we back their scientists and innovators, if we back their thriving cultural life, make them great places to live and give them powerful elected voices, then we can create a Northern Powerhouse,” he will say.

Manchester has already agreed a so-called devolution deal with the Government which includes the creation of a new elected mayor for the city.

South Yorkshire has secured an agreement without a mayor although the deal has been criticised for being too limited.

Negotiations continue with West Yorkshire where there has also been resistance to the idea of introducing elected mayors.

Mr Johnson refused to be drawn into the debate over mayors yesterday but insisted taking control over tax revenues was the key to transforming the North’s economic fortunes.

The London Mayor said: “What you definitely need is powerful civic leaders and you need fiscal devolution, not just for London but for all cities in the UK.

“What you get out of that is a real stability in the funding for great cities.

“In London our success is very much founded on continuous investment in transport infrastructure. We are able to develop parts of the city, brownfield sites, that would otherwise be untouchable. You can only do that if you have a steady stream of investment, a tax base against which you can borrow.”

He said control over council tax, stamp duty, capital gains tax and business rates could all be handed over to big cities within safeguards agreed with the Treasury.

Mr Johnson added: “The great cities of this country are relatively infantalised by comparison with say France or Germany or particularly the United States.

“I also think there would be a benefit to politics. I think politics in Britain has been going through a bit of a scratchy period, to put it mildly.

“Everybody would have much more interest in politics and would be galvanised not only to take part but to vote, if they thought their local politicians had more of a say about the decisions that will really affect them locally.”

The London mayor was speaking after visiting businesses along the main street in Farsley, Leeds, and firms based in Sunny Bank Mills as one of a series of campaign stops in marginal seats in West Yorkshire.

Farsley is in the Pudsey constituency captured by Conservative MP Stuart Andrew at the 2010 General Election by a majority of just 1,659 votes.

It is one of Labour’s top targets this time around along with seats including Dewsbury, Colne Valley. Calder Valley and Leeds North West.

Jamie Hanley, Labour’s candidate for Pudsey, said: “The visit of the Mayor of London today just shows how desperate the Tories are.

“Local people who have been at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis will not take kindly to a man who described the £250,000 a year he received for a weekly column in a national newspaper as ‘chickenfeed’ trying to tell them how to vote.”