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Do our cities need more elected Mayors?

By Paul Goodman
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 Given government's penchant for announcements, I was surprised that the Prime Minister didn't declare this morning that Lord Heseltine has been appointed to conduct an enquiry, chair a taskforce, or head an investigation.

After all, Heseltine was the man who wrote the "It took a riot" memo after the Liverpool disturbances of 1981, and intervened before breakfast, lunch and dinner - as he might put it - in order to revive the city's fortunes.  He visited the city as recently as July.

With characteristic lack of timing, I was about to write a Where-on-earth-is-Lord-Heseltine piece when...up he pops on the World at One, where he reiterated his support for directly elected mayors "with real powers" in more big cities.

He said:

"But the big issues to me are how do you create localism that matters, how do you turn localism from a slogan into reality. And what I believe is absolutely necessary is first of all for the mayors to which the Government is committed in 12 cities coming into existence quickly, that they have real powers.

"I don’t know why we’re only doing it in only 12 cities, it seems to me that the Prime Minister should look into extending much more widely than that.

"I haven't seen, except for Boris Johnson in London, an interview with a local authority leader in any of these cities where these problems existed. That tells me something about the media and something about the attitude of the local set-up that people don't realise that the local leaders matter in these communities."

Case for: Only elected Mayors will have both the mandate and the muscle to drive through the regeneration of the cities they're elected to serve. 

Case against: Regenerating cities is what councils are elected to do, and Conservative councillors have scarcely lined up unanimously behind the elected Mayors idea. 

Strongly for more elected Mayors: Steve Hilton.

Cautious about more elected Mayors: Eric Pickles.

(See here.)

Man in pole position: Greg Clark, recently appointed Cities Minister.

What do you think? 

P.S: Lord Heseltine may not have a new post, but he has an old one - as old as last July, that is.   Ever-helpful Downing Street reminds me that he chairs the Independent Approval Panel for the £1bn Regional Growth Fund.  Long title, big money.




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