England & Wales Democracy, devolution and governance

Urban autonomy? ‘City deals’ and elected mayors

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Summary

The briefing is of particular relevance for metropolitan districts and unitary authorities in urban areas, but may be of interest to others as an exploration of tangible possibilities arising from the government’s localism agenda.

The coalition’s moves to decentralise power to English cities appear to be among the most exciting and potentially influential aspects of the localism agenda. With Liverpool agreeing the first ‘city deal’ in February 2012, including setting a Mayoral election date, and referenda on elected mayors scheduled across the country for May 2012, cities that choose to put themselves forward can potentially gain considerable autonomy within a relatively short timescale. Yet there are many factors which need more discussion: the scope of powers to be devolved; the implications for regionalism; the links with other initiatives such as Local Enterprise Partnerships, Enterprise Zones and the Regional Growth Fund; the extent of central government’s ongoing influence over city governance; and the role of elected mayors. This briefing summarises the framework being established and explores key debates, questions, implications and opportunities for local government.

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