Congratulations to Manchester, which has become the second city to agree a “city deal” with the Government.
Greg Clark, the Minister for the Cities, has been despatched by Nick Clegg to draw up agreements with councils in eight “core cities”, giving them more autonomy and cash.
The first to be agreed was with Liverpool.
Like Birmingham, Liverpool had been ordered to hold a referendum on moving to a mayoral system. But rather than wait until the ballot on May 3, the Merseyside council simply decided to press ahead with a change of system.
Surprise surprise, the city was rewarded with various new powers and tax breaks – and extra funding of £75 million.
Greg Clark explained to Parliament: “No city deal is conditional on having any particular governance arrangement.
“However, the Government believes that directly elected mayors are one way of providing the strong, visible and accountable leadership so, subject to approval by the Council, the Government can confirm that a move towards a directly elected mayor and the creation of a Mayoral Development Corporation would satisfy its requirements as regards governance arrangements to strengthen leadership and accountability in Liverpool City Council.”
In other words, you don’t need to have a mayor but it sure does help.
So Manchester has pulled off quite a coup by agreeing a deal which is set to raise £30 million a year (via business rates which it will be allowed to keep instead of giving to the Treasury).
It has earned the money, and other goodies such as more control over bus services, without promising to create a mayor.
Perhaps it is possible after all to win extra powers and cash from the Government without any guarantee that a mayor will be in place.
Birmingham’s own negotiations with the Government are continuing. If existing council leaders achieve the same success as Manchester then they will surely be able to argue that there’s no need for a mayor after all.