No safe bets when it comes to 'Metro Mayor' elections

Posted On: 
6th April 2017

Kerri Blyberg, political consultant at Dods Monitoring, reports on the Metro Mayor elections being held on May 4th. 

Andy Burham MP is one of the high profile candidates for the Greater Manchester Mayoral election.
PA Images

With less than a month to go until the ballots open, all eyes are on the six combined authorities set to elect their first ‘Metro Mayor’s on 4th May.

Despite predictions that Labour are to make catastrophic losses in the local council elections taking place the same day, 2015 election results point to likely success in the Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley and the West Midlands mayoral elections.

Under the same analysis, the Conservatives are then expected to take West of England and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough but if the last year has taught us anything, no bets are truly safe.

Campaigning is now well underway for those who have confirmed their candidacy for the elections, with more manifesto pledges expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Purdah, or the pre-election period governing the use of public resources, is now in place across local government, with each local council required to have had their specific rules and guidance in place by 27 March. Pre-election restrictions on central government civil servants will commence on 13 April and the Cabinet Office is expected to issue its usual election guidance imminently.

As 4 May draws nearer, most of the attention is likely to be fixated on Greater Manchester, with high profile Labour candidate and current MP Andy Burnham pitched to take the post.

Indeed, the Greater Manchester mayor will enjoy more powers than the other combined authorities, as the winner is set to take charge of a £6 billion health and social care budget while also taking on the functions of Police and Crime Commissioner and control over fire services.

This is in addition to considerable powers over housing, planning, transport and employment to be devolved across all six combined authorities, although each devolution deal is unique to the individual city region.

Manifesto commitments brought forward by candidates so far have mirrored this, with most pledging to tackle local housing and transport issues as a top priority if they win in their respective authorities.

But just how powerful will the new mayors be? Although the post comes with considerable powers and high visibility, metro mayors will certainly not have the same influence as the Mayor for London. Over time, however, further devolution has the potential to increase their mandate and reinvigorate local democracy.

Metro mayors will also be subject to greater scrutiny than that of Sadiq Khan, held to account by both the cabinet of local authority council leaders and an overview and scrutiny committee required by the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016.

Undoubtedly, the new mayors will face many challenges as they take office, not least over how to strengthen their regional economies and promote growth while the UK navigates through Brexit.

For more information on the Metro Mayors, Dods Monitoring has prepared a briefing outlining details of the individual arrangements for each combined authority, the main Mayoral candidates in each area and some of their manifesto commitments.