Regional mayors join forces to demand more local powers

"We need the Northern Powerhouse promises to be fulfilled," says Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne mayor.

Five of England’s metro mayors and leaders from cities across the country have gathered in London today (Wednesday) to set aside their political differences and demand the prime minister puts more power into their hands.

The cross-party group are calling for further control over local transport and additional funding to help them transform connectivity in England’s urban centres, in line with recommendations in the National Infrastructure Assessment. The leading regional politicians travelled to the capital for a summit organised by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

In a direct appeal to the prime minister, the five mayors said in a statement ahead of the event: “As mayors, we are proud to represent cities and regions bursting with potential and we are working hard to deliver for our people. We have different politics and some of our regions are separated by hundreds of miles, yet we share a significant challenge. From north to south and everywhere in between, public transport is under strain, stifling growth and harming quality of life.

“Granting us more control over transport decisions alongside greater investment would give us the tools to transform connectivity and provide a more prosperous future for families and businesses. As the former mayor of London, you know the power of devolution better than anyone. Now put your belief in our communities and hand over the keys to our destiny.”

Last year the NIC published the UK’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment, which recommends that ministers give cities and regions greater autonomy over transport decisions and £43bn of extra funding on top of current spending levels between now and 2040.

This, say the NIC, would enable the development and implementation of long-term strategies for public transport that unlock job opportunities and help to provide much-needed new homes.

The government has confirmed it will respond to the NIC’s recommendations through a National Infrastructure Strategy in the autumn. 

Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “Today we are seeing an unprecedented show of unity from cross-party politicians and the business community, who are demanding the certainty and funding to help them deliver game-changing connectivity. I encourage the prime minister to listen to their call and seize the chance for this to become his legacy in the forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy.”

The prime minister signalled that his government would give greater powers to local leaders in a speech in Manchester three days after taking office, stating that “places need power and a sense of responsibility.” The PM went on to say that his government would “give more communities a greater say over changes to transport, housing, public services and infrastructure that will benefit their areas and drive local growth.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Detached, London-centric decision making in Whitehall has had its day – it’s time to hand over the reins of power and let cities and regions define their own destinies. Our message to the Prime Minister is clear – the time has come for substantial devolution and funding to city regions to unlock our full potential. I’m proud to join mayors from all over the country and different parties in making this call on the government today.”

Mayor of North of Tyne, Jamie Driscoll, said: “North of Tyne needs massive investment in public transport – our prosperity depends on it, and so does tackling the climate crisis. People need to travel cheaply and reliably to work and education, and yet we get a third of the spending London gets per person. We need the Northern Powerhouse promises to be fulfilled.”

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer, said: “The innovation economy of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is critical to sustained UK growth. I’m pleased to join with mayors across England to make the case for further powers and additional funding to upgrade our key infrastructure.”

Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, said: “Whilst central government has been stuck in the Brexit mire, we have been delivering for our local communities on the things that matter to them – better jobs, better transport and better life opportunities. We need central government to give us real autonomy and collectively we can transform the lives of millions across the country.”

Mayor of the West of England, Tim Bowles, said: “Greater devolution powers will help us support communities across our towns and cities. Local people who live and work in the region are best placed to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities that we face. Therefore, we’re now calling on government for additional funding to deliver the infrastructure we need for clean and inclusive economic growth across our region.”

The NIC’s full Infrastructure for Thriving Cities recommendations can be found here. The government has said it will formally respond to the Assessment recommendations in its National Infrastructure Strategy this autumn.

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