From education to employment

Policy Research Think – Tank Calls for Manchester and Birmingham Elected Mayor

The Institute for Public Policy Research’s (IPPR’s) Centre for Cities has called for the creation of elected mayoral positions in two further British conurbations.

The two urban sprawls mentioned are Greater Birmingham and Greater Manchester. The centre was funded by Lord Sainsbury and was established to provide fresh new ideas on issues of urban development, administration and policy. Following the recent proposal in London for Mayor Ken Livingstone to assume control of skills provision, the suggestion by the report that more similar positions should be created could have a great impact on skills provision across the nation.

The Adding of Cities

The report recommends that these two so ““ called “city regions” be afforded control of matters such as transport, regeneration and skills, and be allowed to control their own economic development strategies. The centre argues that almost £1.2 billion each year would be able to be channelled into the new authorities from Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), transport boards and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). The research suggests that Liverpool could follow, with further additions of smaller cities and regions as and when they are deemed to need the elected position and the regional control.

This might not mark the end of the investment, with a proposed levy of 5 % on business rates to be raised by the local mayor. The example that the report calls upon is that of the Spanish city Bilbao, and it goes on to argue that mayors with tax raising and spending powers could improve economic performance and political accountability. This would seem to be in keeping with the tendency to have greater regional accountability in funding and policy matters ““ especially in Further Education, where efforts to make the sector demographically suitable must be carried forward on the local level.


Dermot Finch, IPPR director, welcomed the findings and stated that he felt the regions under consideration were sufficiently large to control their own development and economic destinies “Unelected regional quangos are too big and undemocratic but local authorities are too small,” he said. “Directly elected mayors could provide clear leadership and a visible line of accountability, as Ken Livingstone has shown in London.” David Frost, the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, also welcomed the findings, calling for greater financial devolution.

There is an inquiry ongoing into the state of local government funding and the functions of local government. The man leading the enquiry, Sir Michael Lyons, stated that the report was “an important and welcome contribution to the debate on local government”. However, he continued: “I don”t agree with all its conclusions but we must consider accountability issues alongside questions of what local government should do and how it should be paid for. I would encourage others to read it and engage in the questions it raises.”

Given that the LSC has already stated that they will resist any attempts by Mayor Livingstone to wrest skills control in London away from them, it is uncertain how far this report’s findings can b adopted. If it were to be a success, the control would have to be awarded completely; a piecemeal distribution will only cause greater uncertainty and confusion, which will be to no ““ ones” benefit.

Jethro Marsh

Should the report be carried forward into government policy? Tell us in the FE Blog

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