Northern leaders back Onward mayor’s new powers suggestions

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Proposed new powers for the mayor could include controlling railway fares and timetables as well as adult learning and education support.

The plans have been described as capable of ‘putting thrusters under our local economies’ and providing ‘a tsunami of good quality jobs for local workers’, a local mayor said.

Northern leaders have backed a report by centre-right think tank Onward which calls for ‘radical’ changes that include greater control over taxes levied in their areas to end the ‘micromanagement’ of English regions by Whitehall.

Nine of England’s 10 metropolitan mayors have backed the proposal, which is to give them control of one per cent of income tax revenue as well as the ability to raise taxes and cut business rates in their regions.

Read more: £482m and 20,000 jobs – There’s nothing to hide, says Ben Houchen

Ben Houchen, Mayor of Tees Valley. Photo: Sarah Caldecott

The proposals, published on Saturday, would give mayors control of more than £6billion in tax revenue, rather than having to rely on ‘fragmented’ pots of cash from Whitehall.

Ben Houchen, Conservative Mayor of Tees Valley, said Onward’s proposed new mayoral powers could “put rocket boosters under our local economies” and create “a tsunami of good quality jobs for local workers”.

The Onward report also proposes giving mayors increased powers in areas such as housing construction, transport, digital infrastructure, skills, local energy plans.

Along with increased powers, the report calls on mayors to face greater accountability through a Mayors’ Analysis Office, which would provide independent assessments of mayoral performance and candidate manifestos, as well as strengthened mayoral review committees.

Some of the proposals also have the backing of Communities Secretary Michael Gove, who wrote the foreword to the report calling for a “mayoral moment”.

Mr Gove said: “Mayors work. They can summon, corral and defend. They can innovate and invest. At best, they provide the strategic economic leadership each region needs. And they are known, therefore responsible, and thus allow communities to regain control of their future.

“That is why I endorse the principles underlying this report. Although I do not necessarily agree with all suggestions, my department will seriously engage with most of the ideas they contain. »

As well as Mr Houchen and Steve Rotheram of Liverpool, mayors backing Onward’s proposals include Conservative West Midlands mayor Andy Street and Labor mayors Andy Burnham, Sadiq Khan, Tracey Brabin, Oliver Coppard, Jamie Driscoll and Dan Norris.

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