Boris Johnson set for summit with England's ten metro mayors as Dan Jarvis calls on Prime Minister to re-energise devolution agenda

Boris Johnson is set to be challenged by the country's metro mayors over his commitment to giving elected local leaders the powers to help their regions recover from the pandemic.

The Prime Minister has agreed to a meeting with the ten elected mayors later this summer amid fears his government's interest in devolving powers to the regions has cooled.

Sheffield City Region metro mayor Dan Jarvis who set up the meeting with his West Midlands counterpart Andy Street, said the Government "seemed quite keen on the mayoral project when there were more Conservative mayors".

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Boris Johnson visits Jackson's Wharf, Hartlepool following Conservative by-election victory. Pic by Stu Norton

He told The Yorkshire Post: "There are considerably fewer now so I think we need to re-energise that and I'll be working with the other mayors around the country to do that.

"And we've got a meeting with Boris in the near future, that's a meeting that I requested, and I think that's an important opportunity for him to reiterate his commitment to driving the levelling up process through mayors and through combined authorities and I very much hope that he won't miss that opportunity."

Prior to the local elections there were five Labour and four Tory metro mayors with powers over transport, housing and skills. But the election of Tracy Brabin in West Yorkshire and two other previously Conservative-held mayoralties switching to Labour means the balance is now eight-two.

Local leaders had been waiting for the delayed devolution White Paper to get a sense of whether more powers and funding would be passed from central government to the regions.

But it now appears any reforms will be contained within what the Government calls a "landmark Levelling Up White Paper later this year, articulating how bold new policy interventions will improve opportunity and boost livelihoods across the country as we recover from the pandemic".

Today in Parliament government Ministers Luke Hall and Paul Scully will be questioned by MPs about its levelling up agenda, which former London mayor Mr Johnson used as the basis of his winning 2019 General Election campaign.

Speaking yesterday at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Mr Jarvis said: "I'm not yet personally certain whether there will be both a levelling up White Paper and a separate devolution white paper, or whether the devolution White Paper will be contained within the levelling up paper.

"I think the important point is that there are two aspects to this, powers and money. So the money is obviously really critical, and the levelling fund delivers considerably less than we would have got under the existing arrangements, is the truth of it, and we've evidenced that quite clearly.

"So the money is a very important part of it, but it is also about powers, and it's about investing in mayors and combined authorities, so they've got a kind of formal responsibilities."

A government spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to levelling up all areas of the country, strengthening our Union and empowering our regions by devolving more money, resources and control away from Westminster.

“People in every nation and region want to see politicians across the UK working together on the common challenges we all face - above all how to deal with and recover from Covid-19.”