Mayors back calls for greater control over taxes raised in their areas

Proposals from centre-right think tank Onward would help put ‘rocket boosters’ under local economies, said Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.

17 June 2022

Mayors should have greater control over taxes raised in their areas in order to end “micromanagement” of England’s regions by Whitehall, a think tank has said.

Nine of England’s 10 metro mayors have backed a report from centre-right think tank Onward that calls for “radical” changes that include giving mayors control over 1% of income tax revenues along with the ability to raise taxes and cut business rates in their regions.

The proposals, published on Saturday, would give mayors control over £6 billion of income tax revenues, rather than having to rely on “fragmented” pots of money from Whitehall.

Ben Houchen, Conservative Mayor of Tees Valley, said the new mayoral powers proposed by Onward could “put rocket boosters under our local economies” and deliver “a tsunami of good-quality jobs for local workers”.

Tory leadership race
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, seen here with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has backed the proposals (Ian Forsyth/PA)

The Onward report also proposes giving mayors greater powers over areas including housebuilding, transport, digital infrastructure, skills local energy plans.

This would include control over railways fares and timetables as well as apprenticeships and support for adult education.

Labour’s Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “Real levelling up comes not from the top down but by empowering local communities to take control of their own destinies. It’s something we’ve seen across the country with the election of mayors of all stripes.

“Reports like this clearly showcase the difference made by elected leaders, so it is imperative that we double down on devolution, not row back.”

Northern Powerhouse Rail
Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram (second left), Mayor West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin (centre), Mayor of North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll (second right) and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham have all backed the report (Danny Lawson/PA)

Along with greater powers, the report calls for mayors to face greater accountability through an Office of Mayoral Analysis, which would provide independent assessments of mayoral performance and candidates’ manifestos, along with beefed up mayoral scrutiny panels.

Some of the proposals also have the backing of Communities Secretary Michael Gove, who wrote the report’s foreword calling for a “mayoral moment”.

Mr Gove said: “Mayors work. They can convene, corral, and champion. They can innovate and invest. At their best, they provide the strategic economic leadership every area needs. And they are known – so are accountable, and therefore enable communities to take back control of their future.

“That is why I endorse the principles underpinning this report. Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with every suggestion, my department will engage seriously with many of the ideas in it.”

As well as Mr Houchen and Mr Rotheram, the mayors backing Onward’s proposals include Conservative Mayor of West Midlands Andy Street and Labour mayors Andy Burnham, Sadiq Khan, Tracey Brabin, Oliver Coppard, Jamie Driscoll and Dan Norris.

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