Mayors still need to prove their value


Category: devoComment

A year into the metro mayors, I suspect that the group who have enjoyed them most have been the regional media – as they tend to produce some half decent copy on a quiet news day. In contrast, the average punter may well ask what was the point of all that? The challenge is to make the public view devo mayors as useful, respected as important players in their areas -whether they voted for them or not.

That is hard when many of the mayors have pretty limited powers. OK, many of us who believe in this agenda realise that the pattern is likely to follow the way that the London mayor panned out: with limited powers that grow over time as legitimacy and confidence is established. But many do not want to wait that long.

In terms of acceptance it is lucky that the mayors are not all Labour ones – as seemed possible at one point. This should at least give both main Parties skin in the game and avoid one deciding to attack the whole concept.

The main lobby against them at present may be those who feel that an all-male club is not what we are envisaging. From the perspective of many groups, like the voluntary sector, the bigger geographical scale that metro mayors act upon relative to local councils, does not seem to have provided much added value and may well have taken some away for smaller organisations.

So far mayors have proved their worth as spokespersons and embodiments of their areas, responding to crises, bringing people together to talk about and focus on important issues ranging from homelessness, health, the response to disasters like the Manchester terrorist attack, or how to create inclusive growth. But come the next elections we’d better have a bit more to shout about if Metro Mayors are to really capture the public’s imagination.

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