by GK Strategy 28th February, 2019
3 min read

Metro Mayors – what do people think two years on?

In May 2017 six new metro mayors were elected in combined authorities across England. Now, nearly two years on, we investigate their impact so far. We have previously researched devolution in England prior to the 2017 mayoral elections, concluding that the idea had failed to capture people’s interest in the way other issues have. Has this changed?

Eight city regions so far have a devolution deal with the national government, including North of Tyne who will vote in their mayor on 2nd May this year. The aim of this devolution scheme was to give the regions more functions than they previously had. What exactly these functions are vary by city region – for example, in Manchester the Mayor has control over an integrated health and social care budget, which other metro mayors do not.

In essence, more freedom from central government sounds exciting for the city regions. However, many of the places that now have metro mayors rejected the idea in referendums on the subject in 2012, but it was part of the Conservative party manifesto in 2015 so was implemented anyway.

The idea remained unpopular in May 2017 when the first mayors were elected, with only 17% of online conversation about the topic being positive. Furthermore, despite it being a major change in many areas, only 11,289 posts were made throughout the month on the topic, nearly half of which were on the election day. Clearly, the public were not willing to keenly engage with the idea, as was also shown by the low turnout of only 27.8%.

Nor are the public much more interested today. Across the month of January 2019, there were only 54 posts on the topic online, of which only 12% were positive. This suggests people are becoming incredibly disinterested in the idea – even in North of Tyne where a metro mayor will soon be elected. However, any politician receives a fair amount of criticism.

However, on a policy level, a number of great achievements have been made by the metro mayors. Manchester mayor Andy Burnham is committed to reducing homelessness, has reduced bus fares by 50% for 16-18 years, and improved the quality and availability of apprenticeships for example. This has made him a popular figure, with  75% of online sentiment towards him beung positive or neutral. Therefore, businesses and organisations must consider the importance of engaging with the metro mayors, who often carry much influence as well as power in their region.

At GK, we work with many businesses and organisations who operate on a very local level – from social care providers to Wi-Fi providers. GK use our team’s extensive political, policy and media knowledge to help businesses address challenges they might be facing at local, regional and national level.

We understand local, regional and national government, along with arm’s length bodies, and the financial and regulatory pressures that they are facing. From individual councils, through to city regions; from CCGs, to regulators and the NHS; and from constituency MPs through to Government departments, we can help you to build relationships that last.

Find out more about our regional and local practice here.

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