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Time to give mayors vital powers, Institute Director urges Pickles

Andrew Adonis has written to communities minister, Eric Pickles saying that elected mayors have huge potential to drive growth in the UK economy but only if they are given sufficient powers. The letter comes a week before the Localism Bill enters the final stages of its passage through Parliament.

In the letter, Lord Adonis presses for the office of elected mayor to be given greater powers over matters including planning and policing before referenda take place in 11 English cities. He says that this will be an important factor in persuading people to vote for the new governance model. In addition to the call for more powers, the letter also presses for the referenda to be staged over two years, with Birmingham, Leeds and Bristol voting first in May 2012. Lord Adonis says:

"Staging the referenda over two years would give an opportunity for those voting in the second wave to see the mayoral model working in the first. If these three cities vote in favour of mayoral elections, these should then take place earlier than planned in September 2012. This would avoid a period of possible hiatus between yes votes and elections, whilst alowing enough time for candidate selection and campaigning."

New Report

Today's letter is accompanied by a report, Making the Most of Mayors, which summarises findings from a tour of English cities undertaken by Lord Adonis earlier this year. The report concludes that the case in favour of elected mayors is strengthened by experience from the 12 existing mayoral authorities. From the many valuable lessons to be learned from those places, it recommends that:

  • Mayors should focus on developing relationships and influence decisions using "soft" powers
  • They should have a veto over the appointment of council chief executives
  • Councillors should focus on improving the quality of outcomes through their scrutiny role
  • There should be a review of the optimum number of councillors in mayoral authorities.

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