Question time for Labour’s prospective Metro Mayors at City REDI fringe event

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City-REDI sponsored a very successful fringe event at #Lab16 this week, challenging prospective Metro Mayors to take questions from the floor on their vision, priorities and planned policies.

Sion Simon MEP (West Midlands), Steve Rotherham MP (Liverpool) and Andy Burnham MP (Greater Manchester) spoke to a packed audience at one of the busiest fringe events this year.

As an interesting start to the session Dr Adam Marshall (Acting Director General at the British Chamber of Commerce) asked the audience if they supported the new Metro Mayoral role and whether they believed it would be good for cities. The majority of the audience supported it and believed it would make a difference, so a positive start for the panel.

A lively debate and discussion ensued. Key points raised by candidates included:

  • Establishing a social justice commission for the Liverpool City Region and an offer for the voluntary sector to get involved
  • A need for collaboration across cities to ensure balance outside London and using airports like Birmingham to drive this rebalancing
  • Making young people and mental health support a priority in Manchester
  • Case for devolvement of education and skills within Mayoral powers and within that promoting vocational education as important as traditional routes
  • DWP money is conspicuous by its absence, although potentially where the greatest local impact can be made and where current systems are failing
  • Free travel for young people in Manchester, the #BurnhamBusPass
  • Council housing for everyone who needs it in Liverpool

There are still many burning questions and here are some thoughts for candidates (of all parties) to ponder:

  • Will the administrative support for the Mayors be able to function outside of the existing local government infrastructure and culture: will they be able to adapt and improve it?
  • The role of women in shaping cities was highlighted given the lack of female mayoral candidates and lack of women in the room: what will mayors do to engage everyone across the whole city?
  • How will they demonstrate accountability, visibility and relevance with the electorate: how will they get past the perceptions of mayors of old?
  • Given the mixed responsibility on policy and interventions mayors can deliver: how will they identify the policy needs locally and then ensure they continue to grasp the right levers from central government to affect a real change locally?

Mayoral elections are not like other elections, party politics are less a driver of voting intention, and there are less guarantees of election; London is a good example of this. Personality and leadership are key decision factors. The next 12 months will highlight how candidates can or can’t appeal beyond party politics and how they can unite city regions behind a common purpose. Making the places we live better in real terms not the abstract.

Come along to our mayor Fringe Event at the Conservative Party Conference, which promises to be as engaging as this one, but come early to get a seat!

Check out the twitter response at #DevoQT

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