Minister says mayoral referendums should not be held


There should be no re-run on referendums over whether local areas should have directly elected mayors, local government minister Baroness Williams has said.

Under the last government, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Wakefield, Coventry, Leeds and Bradford voted ‘no’ to the idea of mayors, championed by coalition ministers. Bristol however was in favour and Doncaster voted to keep its mayor.

As chancellor George Osborne made the implementation of a metro mayor a pre-condition to his city devolution programme, the Baroness was keen to forestall any re-run of the 2012 disaster.

Under the chancellor's latest plans mayors are likely to take control of extensive transport powers including control over bus services in their area, as modelled by the mayor of London's powers. 

 Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday, she said devolution deals ‘replicated’ the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, which provided for resolutions from councils instead of referendums when introducing a mayoral model.

Baroness Williams added that the city mayors rejected in referendums under the previous government were an ‘entirely different proposition to what we have now, which involves real transfer of powers’.

However the government has confirmed to Transport Network that the devolution deals, and the powers taken by individual mayors through such deals, would be arranged on a bespoke basis.

Vice president of the Local Government Association, Lord Shipley, warned failing to hold mayoral referendums would mean the new structures would lack ‘legitimacy’.

Speaking of Greater Manchester, ex-West Bromwich MP, Lord Snape, said ‘democracy can hardly be said to have prevailed in and around that great city’.

Former Labour Party leader, Lord Kinnock, asked if the Government was also planning to reverse the 40% budget cuts inflicted on the local authorities in Greater Manchester as part of the deal.

‘Greater Manchester has come forward with a proposal that is fiscally neutral,’ replied Baroness Williams.

‘The plan uses the money that government currently puts into certain services, and Greater Manchester plans to use that money more efficiently and to engender growth in the process. Greater Manchester has not asked for additional money.’

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