Devolved powers, but only if you have an elected mayor

The Chancellor George Osborne has outlined plans to create a ‘northern powerhouse’ by offering more powers to the West Yorkshire region.

In his first speech since being re-elected, Mr Osborne said more powers will be given to local authorities on the condition they adopt a directly-elected mayor.

Mr Osborne told an audience in Manchester that his aim was to close the “decades-old economic gap between north and south.”

He said: “Over a long period, under governments of all political colours, our economy has become unbalanced and our capital city has come to dominate more and more.

“The answer to that is not to pull London down – what we need to do is build up the rest of our country.”

The City Devolution Bill will be outlined during the Queen’s Speech on May 27, and Mr Osborne said it will give devolved regions more control over areas including health, policing, housing, transport and skills.

Measures in the bill will also allow devolved areas to retain local business rates to spend as they choose rather than being sent to the Treasury. He said: “We will hand power from the centre to cities to give you greater control over your local transport, housing, skills and healthcare. And we’ll give the levers you need to grow your local economy and make sure local people keep the rewards.

“But it’s right people have a single point of accountability, someone they elect, who takes the decisions and carries the can.

“So with these new powers for cities must come new city-wide elected mayors who work with local councils.

“I will not impose this model on anyone. But nor will I settle for less.”

Mr Osborne said he wasn’t interested in any “half-way house deals” and said he wouldn’t consider devolving powers to areas that refuse an elected mayor.

The City Devolution Bill will allow towns and cities within a region to fall under the same authority - so we could see an elected mayor overseeing an area including Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Calderdale and Kirklees.

Mr Osborne said: “Working people here have exactly the same aspirations as everywhere else in the country.

“I’m determined they should have the same chance to achieve those aspirations.

“I don’t want any child growing up in any part of Britain, to feel like the big opportunities are all happening somewhere else, happening for someone else.

“I don’t want the ideas, the ambition, the energy and the creativity of any part of our nation to go to waste.”