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Viva La Devolution

On 4th May, six regions – Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Midlands, West of England, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough and Tees Valley – elected a combined authority mayor for the first time. This is the start of a process that will see billions of pounds transferred away from Whitehall to the regions by the end of the decade.

The scope of the powers being devolved varies from region to region, however, they are already far reaching. Housing and planning, transport, skills, economic development, justice and health will no longer be administered from Whitehall alone.

Any business or organisation with a direct or indirect interest in these sectors needs to understand the scale of this change and how it will affect them – as well as the opportunities available to engage.

English devolution has had many false starts. From Regional Development Agencies to the Northern Powerhouse, successive Governments have put in place the structures and the funding to help the UK’s regions become masters of their own destiny. Until now, these measures have not captured the imagination of the wider public. With metro mayors, similar in profile and mandate to the Mayor of London, there is the potential to effect real change in these areas – delivering high profile schemes, driving inward investment and finding strategic solutions to regional problems.

At present, there are still unanswered questions as to how these new mayors will operate. While the combined authorities have been establishing their structures for some time, it is likely that the incoming mayors will take some time to understand how to work with them as they tentatively explore fulfilling their campaign pledges. Given the General Election on 8th June, it can be assumed that their first action will be to use their new regional profile to campaign for parliamentary candidates, but what else will they be trying to achieve in their first one hundred days? How should businesses engage with them during this time?

Portland’s dedicated Local team has the knowledge of key decision makers and first-hand insight into the development of the devolution agenda – both nationally and at a local level.

We are here to ensure your organisation is equipped to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that will arise from this new chapter in devolution.

In this publication, we bring together leading figures in the debate around English devolution to shed light on these changes and ensure your organisation is best placed to meet them.

As with any new administration, the first hundred days will be crucial in setting the tone for the Mayor’s time in office.

New mayors will be looking for partners to help them make a mark and to implement their manifestos. In his contribution, Conservative MP and former Deputy Mayor of London, Kit Malthouse, argues that businesses that approach new mayors with cost effective proposals that can help them “leave their mark” on their area, are likely to get a good hearing.

Miatta Fahnbulleh, Director of Policy Research at IPPR, argues that the first generation of mayors will need to do three things in their first three years – deliver quick wins, forge a political coalition with local authority leaders and fight for greater devolution of power from Whitehall.

Eamonn Boylan, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, says the success of devolution will depend on the strength of the relationship between the public and private sectors; driven forward by Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, believes metro mayors will help link together the cities of the north of England, allowing it the kind of advantages of scale that London enjoys.

By Chris Hogwood, Partner and Head of Portland’s Local team. With strong ties across local and regional government, Chris supports clients through contentious issues, helping them to build meaningful relationships in town and city halls across the country. He previously worked for the local government pressure group London Councils.

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