North of England may get three more mayoralties in devolution agenda

Cumbria, North Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire in line for more local power, says Robert Jenrick

New mayoralties could be created in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire, the communities secretary has said, as he announced a renewed commitment to “widen and deepen” the devolution agenda.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Robert Jenrick reaffirmed the government’s “full devolution” approach, outlined in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto, despite concerns Boris Johnson had soured on the idea after a high-profile spat with Andy Burnham, Labour Greater Manchester mayor, over coronavirus last year.

Jenrick said there is “interest” in creating the three mayoralties, while in other more rural areas of the country county deals may be more appropriate. He told the FT: “We would like to encourage parts of the country that want to come forward to do devolution deals with us.

“We unlocked the Sheffield city region, we now have Dan Jarvis as the mayor.

“We’ve created the West Yorkshire devolution deal and have a fully elected mayor there. There are other parts of the country that are negotiating with us.”

Jenrick praised Andy Street, the Conservative West Midlands mayor, and Labour’s Andy Burnham for using their powers effectively to improve their regions, arguing that devolution is about more than handing over money from central government.

He said: “It’s about being more innovative in the way we deliver public services and believing that there doesn’t need to be a single model for the whole country … what we want to do is work with the mayors with further measures.

“We can encourage them and work with high-performing councils to give them more power over the delivery of public services.”

A levelling up white paper is due for publication in the autumn, which is understood to supersede a previously promised devolution plan.

Jenrick spoke from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s newly established secondary headquarters in the West Midlands, opened on Friday as part of the government’s “levelling-up” agenda.

Different ministers work from the secondary headquarters once a week, Jenrick said, himself included. The government has committed to moving 22,000 jobs out of Westminster by 2030.

Born and raised in Wolverhampton, Jenrick said: “Talent is spread equally, but opportunity too often hasn’t been. And that means ensuring that you can access good-quality education, great transport and connectivity.”

The minister further indicated the government is poised to water down a radical overhaul of the planning system, after opposition by Conservative MPs in the south of England. New planning laws, part of the government’s Project Speed, were announced in the Queen’s speech with the target of modernising and simplifying the system and increasing the number of homes being planned by more than a third.

Jenrick said: “We’ve spent the best part of a year listening to members of parliament, councils, members of the public and I think we will bring forward a set of proposals which are sensible, pragmatic improvements to the current planning system, which all reasonable people will be able to get behind.”


Euan O'Byrne Mulligan

The GuardianTramp

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