Why metro mayors are so popular with Government

By Heather Jameson | 13 October 2020
  • Heather Jameson

If anyone was ever in any doubt about why metro mayors appeal to central Government, you only have to look at the last few days for clarity. Even the national media has cottoned on to the voice of the metro mayor.

Gone are the days of negotiating with swathes of council leaders, all with varying opinions, viewpoints, interests and opinions. Instead, just jump on Teams with Steve Rotheram and negotiate a tier-three lockdown without the need to engage with half a dozen leaders.

Never has the ease of dealing with metro mayors over the patchwork plethora of leaders been quite so apparent as it is now – just as the devolution and reorganisation agenda has crashed and burned. For now.

Of course, it’s not perfect. And it’s not local. But parish and district councils have had similar gripes since the dawn of time and we are nowhere nearer to finding a perfect, elusive, elegant structure that resolves all the issues.

Nor is it without political risk. Creating a mayoralty, only to lose it to a political opponent is bad enough without metro mayors speaking out against their own side. See Andy Street for details.

But now the lockdown deals are being negotiated there is extra cash to deal with the problems, money to support businesses and the community and a guarantee you will not face financial collapse due to the pressures of COVID. It is good news.

For places dealing with the pressures of a widespread outbreak and the increased economic and social costs of tighter lockdown, the additional uncertainty of precarious finances is a concern too far. Place-shielding comes at a cost and the payback – as the IFS points out this week – needs to come later.

So what of tier two? Where is the support to stem the rising tide of COVID? Where is the prevention? Where is the protection from financial collapse amid the pandemic?

As it stands, local authorities – and metro mayors – would almost be better placed if they let COVID infection rates soar. That just can’t be right.

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