Metro Mayors matter

The Government today (2 February) announced that every part of the country will be able to get a Metro Mayor like the West of England’s Dan Norris in the much anticipated Levelling Up White Paper.

In a package of measures, the Government laid out a clear direction of travel to transfer more powers, responsibilities and cash to regional Metro mayors. This includes a portion of a £2.6 billion UK Shared Prosperity Fund, a special Metro Mayor chunk of £120 million for affordable housing, and subsuming the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership into the West of England Combined Authority led by Dan Norris.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “I welcome the steps towards further devolution and that more areas will get Metro Mayors across the UK. Bringing more functions on skills and business support to the Combined Authority is a sensible measure.

Combined Authorities led by Metro Mayors are the future so I am pleased we got in early. This is increasingly where political power is being concentrated.

I will continue to call for even more powers and resources because we know that we can make better decisions for our region, in our region. That is what devolution is about, and it is why this role of Metro Mayor matters so deeply to me. Because this is my home and I’m so immensely proud of our amazing West of England which I want to be the best it can be. ”

However, the Metro Mayor sounded a note of caution questioning whether cash announcements were being recycled and said he was concerned the Government was not tackling the cost of living crisis.

He said: “Show us the money, please! As ever the devil will be in the detail, and while I truly welcome every opportunity to spend money locally with decisions taken here not in Whitehall, what we really want is new money as opposed to recycled money and recycled promises.

“Currently the cash sums are somewhat opaque. There was a re-announcement of the money I was very proud to win for transport. That half a billion, which is the biggest per head investment in transport in the country, is great for the region but it is old news we got back last October. Devolution will work best when there is serious investment.

“I’m also sceptical that the government are putting 12 ideas into legislation to achieve in 8 years time. That is a big hint that there is no new money behind them and I’m not sure many Tory MPs believe party-goer Boris Johnson will be in post in 8 weeks, let alone 8 years to see this through!

“Today we heard warm words about improving our high streets and I’m 100% behind the idea of giving people a renewed pride in our communities. But the stark truth is high streets will only thrive when people have money in their pockets to spend and passengers will only be able to get on local buses to go shopping, if the Government reverse their swingeing bus cuts. Unfortunately, in Downing Street, there is a PM who not only turns a blind eye to parties, but also to rocketing fuel bills and empty supermarket shelves – until he is removed and there is a competent replacement, it leaves local leaders with one hand tied behind our backs.”

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