Mayors visit Downing Street for devolution talks

Mayors outside of No 10
[Reuters]

England's regional mayors are meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Angela Rayner and Prime Minister Keir Starmer to discuss "a major programme of devolution", the government said.

Ms Rayner, who is also communities secretary, said "for too long" Westminster has "tightly gripped control" and "held back opportunities for towns, cities and villages across the UK".

She said the meeting at 10 Downing Street would discuss "shifting power out of Westminster" towards the regions.

Local mayors will be asked to identify local specialisms which could contribute to a "national industrial strategy".

Labour has made growing the economy one of its five "missions" for government.

As part of this, it says local leaders will be required to draw up Local Growth Plans, which "identify growth sectors and the infrastructure they need to thrive".

Twelve areas of England, including Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Tees Valley, currently have devolution deals giving powers over areas such as transport, housing and employment.

Tees Valley's Conservative mayor Ben Houchen, who was re-elected for a third consecutive term in May, is currently the only metro mayor who is not a Labour politician.

Jim McMahon, communities minister, told BBC Breakfast that access to funds had previously been “fragmented”, but local authorities would now be able to use “a single pot of money that trusts our metro mayors to get on to do the job they’ve been elected to do”.

Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin takes a selfie at a meeting with Labour's newly expanded team of mayors
Tracy Brabin took a selfie with Labour's newly expanded team of mayors after local elections in May [PA Media]

West Midlands mayor Richard Parker told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he hoped the meeting would help to give mayors more agency to improve their communities.

Mr Parker said rules set up by the previous governments were drawn "too tightly" over the spending of funds, and with "more freedom" to use them he would be able to create more than 3,000 new, affordable homes across the West Midlands.

South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard, who pulled out of the meeting on Tuesday morning after testing positive for Covid, set out his priorities in a letter to the prime minister.

"A child or young person in South Yorkshire today has every right to expect their future to be brighter than that of their parents; to grow up in a community that not only respects but matches their ambition," he wrote.

Devolution deals were expanded under the Conservatives, who formed new combined authorities made up of several council areas and chaired by metro mayors.

This also formed part of the "levelling-up" strategy, which aimed to reduce inequality between different parts of the country.

Powers were already set to be devolved to more areas in 2025, including Suffolk, Norfolk and Greater Lincolnshire.

Sir Keir said he believed it was those "with skin in the game" who "know best what they need".

Ms Rayner said the new government is focused on "a full reset of our relationship with local government".

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[BBC]