Petition Hold a referendum in Greater Manchester on removing the position of Mayor

The Mayor of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority is unable to pause or stop the controversial Clean Air Zone in the region. Since the position is powerless, it should be disbanded, with powers returned to the 10 councils of Greater Manchester to govern themselves.

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Disbanding the position would mean taxpayers’ money could be diverted to more useful areas to pay for extra police officers and/or nurses. The position was never wanted by the people of Greater Manchester, it was imposed upon us. Let the 10 towns be free from this position.

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Government responded

This response was given on 5 July 2022

Removing the Mayor of Greater Manchester would cost taxpayers significantly. Local leadership is key to levelling up and we are negotiating new devolution deals – not removing those already in place.

The government does not agree that a referendum on the position of Mayor is in the interests of the people of Greater Manchester. Removing the Mayor would result in the abolition of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and incur significant costs to the taxpayer.

Local leadership is also critical to levelling up. That is why government is setting itself a mission that, by 2030, every part of England that wants a devolution deal will have one, with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution, with a simplified, long-term funding settlement.

To help achieve this mission, for the first time Government has published in the Levelling Up White Paper a devolution framework which sets out a clear menu of options for places in England that wish to unlock the benefits of devolution. This builds on powers successfully transferred from Westminster to locally accountable bodies through earlier devolution deals such as the one for Greater Manchester, including powers over transport, adult education and housing.

These earlier devolution deals have unlocked tangible benefits for local communities. In the 2012 City Deal, for example, Greater Manchester and Government developed the ground-breaking Earn Back model, which has supported c.£3bn investment in the city region’s transport system over the last decade, including the A6-Manchester Airport Relief Road and the Trafford Park Metrolink line. The success of this model was recognised by the National Infrastructure Commission in its 2018 National Infrastructure Assessment.

We recognise, however, that new mechanisms are needed to strengthen local accountability and our Levelling Up White Paper identifies accountability as one of the four principles of the devolution framework. In pursuit of this principle, we have committed to a new accountability framework for all areas with devolved powers, to be agreed before any new devolution deals are agreed.

We are also establishing a new independent body in England focused on data, transparency and robust evidence. This will enhance the UK Government’s understanding of place-based leadership, quality of local service delivery and organisational efficacy. It will also empower citizens with information about their local area, and make it easier for them to engage with local proposals, input into service design and build pride in their place.

We are in the process of introducing legislation to Parliament to underpin in statute these changes fundamental to levelling up, alongside wider planning measures.

Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/606899)

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Other parliamentary business

MPs report on the progress of devolution in England

Last September, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee published a report that looked at the progress of devolution in England so far and examined the case for greater powers over services including health, housing, planning and education.

The Committee's report recommends that devolution be extended further, not only to combined authorities but local government more widely, and to both rural and urban areas.

Read the full report: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7467/documents/78200/default/

Further Among its recommendations, the Committee said that the Government should:

  • Bring forward a developed devolution framework

  • Consider adopting the devolution model already used by the devolved nations

  • Examine whether there is support in an area for a directly elected mayor prior to implementation

  • Clarify which powers are reserved for the central government, and which are available for devolution.

  • Explore alternatives to council tax and business rates as revenue options for local authorities

  • Commission research to explore options for allocating national tax revenue at the local level, such as; local income tax across a combined authority area and devolution of a "tourism tax"

Read more about the report, including a comment from Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/110/progress-on-devolution-in-england/news/157867/government-should-press-ahead-with-devolution-agenda-say-mps/

Questions for the Minister

On 24 February 2022 the Committee also questioned the Minister for Levelling Up, Neil O'Brien MP on issues such as;

  • Powers and resources available to local councils

  • The framework for devolution

  • Fiscal devolution

  • Targets for measuring levelling-up across the country

You can learn more about the session with the Minister here: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/17/levelling-up-housing-and-communities-committee/news/161304/minister-questioned-on-governments-levellingup-white-paper/

What is the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee?

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee scrutinises the work of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and its associated public bodies. It is a cross-party committee and is independent of the Government.

Find out more on their website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/17/levelling-up-housing-and-communities-committee/

You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/CommonsLUHC

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_2RDuDs44c

Get involved in the work of the UK Parliament

You can also sign up to the UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference: https://learning.parliament.uk/en/your-uk-parliament-newsletter-sign-up-form/

Original Government response

The government has set a mission that, by 2030, every part of England that wants a devolution deal will have one. This will give areas more powers and flexibility in return for greater accountability.

Following a request, together with supporting evidence, from Greater Manchester authorities, we have agreed to allow a short delay to the implementation of the Clean Air Zone. This will allow Greater Manchester to provide further evidence and a revised plan by July setting out how it will deliver legal levels of NO2 as soon as possible. A full statement is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/update-on-greater-manchester-clean-air-zone

The Government believes that strong and dynamic local leadership, that can understand how complex issues come together in a place, tailor policy to local priorities, attract investment and seize each area’s opportunities, is critical to levelling up. Strengthening local leadership through devolution will give local politicians control of the levers they need to level up and deliver better outcomes and services for local residents.

That is why Government has announced the biggest ever transfer of power away from Westminster to local government in modern times. Building on the 2019 manifesto commitment to full devolution across England, the UK Government is setting itself a mission that, by 2030, every part of England that wants a devolution deal will have one, with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution, with a simplified, long-term funding settlement.

To help achieve this mission, for the first time Government has published in the Levelling Up White Paper a devolution framework which sets out a clear menu of options for places in England that wish to unlock the benefits of devolution. This builds on powers successfully transferred from Westminster to locally accountable bodies through earlier devolution deals, including powers over transport, adult education and housing.

These earlier devolution deals have unlocked tangible benefits for local communities. In the 2012 City Deal, for example, Greater Manchester and Government developed the ground-breaking Earn Back model, which has supported c.£3bn investment in the city region’s transport system over the last decade, including the A6-Manchester Airport Relief Road and the Trafford Park Metrolink line. The success of this model was recognised by the National Infrastructure Commission in its 2018 National Infrastructure Assessment.

We want to build on earlier successes by deepening the devolution settlements of the most mature institutions to support them in delivering further benefits for local residents. We recognise, however, that new mechanisms are needed to strengthen local accountability and our Levelling Up White Paper identifies accountability as one of the four principles of the devolution framework. In pursuit of this principle, we have committed to a new accountability framework for all areas with devolved powers, to be agreed before any new devolution deals are agreed.

We are also establishing a new independent body in England focused on data, transparency and robust evidence. This will enhance the UK Government’s understanding of place-based leadership, quality of local service delivery and organisational efficacy. Strengthening data will be the cornerstone of this body, supporting councils to learn from one-another, be user-focused and identify areas for improvement.

This independent body will empower citizens with information about their local area, and make it easier for them to engage with local proposals, input into service design and build pride in their place. It will also strengthen local leaders’ knowledge of their services, enabling them to share best practice, innovate and drive improvement.

We will be setting out further detail on a number of these policy commitments in future publications. In addition, we will shortly be introducing legislation to Parliament to underpin in statute the changes fundamental to levelling up, alongside wider planning measures.

Finally, removing the position of mayor from a mayoral combined authority dissolves the combined authority’s area and abolishes the combined authority. This process requires secondary legislation, which requires the majority of the constituent members of the combined authority and the mayor to consent to the making of the order, as well as parliamentary approval.

Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

This response was given on 25 May 2022. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

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