Mayors “not necessary” for devo deals

St Helens South and Whiston MP Marie Rimmer
St Helens South and Whiston MP Marie Rimmer

ST Helens South and Whiston MP Marie Rimmer has said having an elected mayor is not a prerequisite for city devolution deals.

During a debate on the issue in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Ms Rimmer highlighted that in 2004 St Helens residents clearly rejected the mayoral model of governance.

The Liverpool city region is one of dozens of areas across the country to have submitted bids to the Government for devolution deals.

Greater Manchester has already signed up with Sheffield tipped to be the next to reach an agreement.

The Devolution Bill was up for a second reading stage at the Commons this week with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raising concerns about the handover of powers and the loss of the country’s shire and county regions.

Ms Rimmer told the chamber: “It is what is not in the Bill that is of concern rather than what is. Practically none of the specific responsibilities of this Bill is actually mentioned in it. What is concerning is the bilateral discussions that have gone on between the Chancellor and local authority leaders.

It is what is not in the Bill that is of concern rather than what is

St Helens South MP Marie Rimmer

“They have not been transparent or open. Councillors are not aware of what is going on behind those doors, so heaven help the public. We talk about the devolution of power to communities and yet we deny those communities the right to decide whether they want a mayoral model. It just does not bode well.”

Civic leaders in neighbouring Greater Manchester also said prior to their deal that they did not need a metro mayor because the region already had a functioning combined authority.

However, the mayoral system was a deal-breaker for chancellor George Osborne.

Speaking after the debate, Ms Rimmer added: “In St Helens we have already lost more from our Government grant funding than what we collect in council tax. This government are devolving cuts to communities, not devolving real power.

“Labour supports real devolution to empower our communities, but this government’s plan is a top down process of piecemeal deals that do not offer meaningful devolution to areas like St Helens South and Whiston.”