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Government / Local politics

Here’s what the public think of “metro mayors”

London just had its mayoral election (we may have mentioned this). And next May, a slew of other English city regions will hold their own, electing their first “metro mayors”.

That is, at any rate, the plan. How many of the nine of so devolution deals currently under discussion actually get delivered is a slightly different question.

But anyway, let’s accentuate the positive, and assume these deals are actually going to happen. If they do, what will the public think of them? 

The Centre for Cities just commissioned ComRes to find out. Here’s what it found.

1) Most people haven’t noticed.

This is not, admittedly, how the CfC present these findings: it argues, instead, that the numbers actually look pretty good this far out from the election.

But nonetheless, a majority of those surveyed hadn’t noticed the impending arrival of a metro mayor at all.

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There’s also quite a gap in awareness. The Liverpool city region is reasonably conscious of the new mayor (perhaps because there already is a mayor of Liverpool). But Sheffield is surprisingly ignorant, given how long plans there have been on the table. This might be because the Sheffield City Region will include quick big rural areas a relatively long way from Sheffield – then again, it might not.

2) Most people prefer mayors to council leaders

A more positive message, for devolution fans. Once people are aware of the mayor, they apparently think they should outrank existing council leaders.

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There’s also less regional variation.

3) A lot of people want mayors to do things they can’t do

The new mayors will not have power over schools. Outside Manchester, they won’t have power over the NHS, social care or the emergency services, either.

And yet:

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This is either an encouraging sign that people want their mayors to be more powerful – or a recipe for disillusionment and frustration.

4) People are surprisingly keen on planning

Here’s what people say when prompted for their views on bits of policy the new mayors actually will control.

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That people are in favour of affordable housing is no surprise (at least, to us). The enthusiasm for “creating a city-region strategic plan” is perhaps less expected. I mean, we’re pleased, but…. what?

Just as striking in some ways is the relative lack of excitement about transport. Are urbanites now so used to driving everywhere now so unused to having access to decent public transport that it never even occurs to them to ask for it? Or are we just – gulp – nerds?

Here, for your delectation, is a map of the regions getting metro mayors:

And here’s our most recent podcast, where we discuss this stuff and the New Statesman‘s Stephen Bush sings a rousing chorus of “metro, metro mayor”.

ComRes surveyed 2,500 people in the five biggest city regions expected to introduce metro mayors.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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