South and West Yorkshire set to miss out on being first mayors with top level powers
Both Greater Manchester and the West Midlands have seen great success from their trailblazer devolution deals, with both possessing the most substantial powers of any devolved mayor across England.
These powers include the 100 per cent retention of Business Rates, which Jeremy Hunt confirmed would be extended for both Andy Burnham and Andy Street’s combined authorities.
Both mayors also receive a single pot settlement, which allows flexibility in choosing which areas to prioritise for growth over the coming years.
However local sources expressed frustration that powers were to be extended to the North East, which is due to hold its first mayoral election next year.
The current candidates include Jamie Driscoll, who serves as the Mayor of North of Tyne and will be running as an independent candidate against Kim McGuinness, who has been Northumbria’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) since 2019.
This is set to mean that more established combined authorities such as West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire will fall behind yet another region, despite suggestions from central government that new trailblazer deals would be given to “more mature” combined authorities, one source noted.
South Yorkshire, which has had an elected mayor since 2018 in the combined authority, still does not have a single-pot settlement or the business rate retention that has been seen with these new trailblazer deals.
In an interview with The Yorkshire Post earlier this year Oliver Coppard, the Mayor of South Yorkshire, said that his combined authority was ideally placed to be given the powers seen by Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.
Speaking at the launch of West Yorkshire’s new investment zone this week, Tracy Brabin, the region’s Mayor, said that discussions were still ongoing with Michael Gove’s department to get the powers the region needs to thrive.
It comes as Mr Hunt revealed a framework for the highest level of devolution deals, known as “level 4” which allows mayors to apply for devolved powers over adult skills, local transport and housing on a par with those enjoyed by Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.
In addition, the Treasury has published further details on the single settlements of funding that both Andy Burnham and Andy Street will recieve at the next Spending Review.
The trust shown in mayors to be given powers usually reserved for the Treasury and other Whitehall departments will be placed alongside measures to make sure they are accountable to the people covered by the combined authority.
These include a Mayor’s Question Time held at least every three months where members of the public will have the ability to quiz their leader.
These deals are one “level” higher than the devolution deals announced for both East Yorkshire and Greater Lincolnshire, as well as the combined authorities in North, South and West Yorkshire.
Proposed elections for mayors in both areas would take place in May 2025.
Responding to Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, the Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin said: “Lower taxes alone will not lift our economy out of this long-term rut caused by thirteen years of underinvestment and cuts to public services.
“The only way to raise living standards, end the cost of living crisis and cut taxes in the long-term, is by investing in the things that really matter – housing, education, health and transport.
“As economic growth grinds to a halt, the need to level up and tackle inequalities is as pressing as ever. Local leaders stand ready to deliver on ambitious plans for their regions in a way that you cannot do from Whitehall.”