Directly elected city mayors have been around for a few years now, both in London and a few other towns and cities. But there are some very significant new city region mayoral roles being created for the first time in May 2017. These mayors will have a direct influence on key issues such as the regional economy, planning and housing. So in this report we will look at what these new officials could mean for the property investor.
Firstly, a quick look at how elected city region mayors came into being. Politicians from both main parties have been enthusiastic about elected mayors since the 1980s. However, legislation to enable such a system was only introduced in the late 1990s and led to the election of a mayor for London in 2000. Several other local authority areas decided to adopt the new system, with Liverpool and Leicester being the largest regional cities to do so. Moving on, the Localism Act 2011 called for large cities to hold referenda on whether to introduce a city mayor. Voters in most, with Bristol and Salford being exceptions, rejected the idea. Currently 16 locations outside London (some comparatively small like Doncaster and Bedford) now have electable mayors.
Proposals in the 2015 Budget, since adopted into law, resurrected the concept of elected mayors as part of the government's city and local government devolution policies. As a result local authorities can apply for a 'devolution deal' and take over responsibility for some functions normally carried out by central government - on condition they hold elections for an executive mayor.
Recent comments from the new Prime Minister Theresa May suggest that in future devolved areas will have the option rather than the compulsion to elect a mayor. There are apparently also concerns in government circles that the upcoming mayoral elections could result in some powerful Labour mayors being elected. Indeed, whatever parties the eventual new mayors hail from, it shouldn't be ignored that the system offers scope to create some politically powerful new figures. However, at the time of writing those areas which have agreed a devolution deal are still expected to elect mayors.