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Do we need more powers for mayors?

Michael Gove is in Yasper’s hometown of Leeds, on his semi-regular pilgrimage offering gifts and shiny trinkets for the North. Yes, the levelling-up roadshow is in town!


Chief amongst the levelling-up minister’s proclamations this year, is the promise of more powers for mayors. Mayoral devolution has advanced at pace in recent years, a steamroller unhindered by pandemics and general elections alike.


And Gove says that what the public want is more of the good stuff – more devolution, more powers for mayors. Is that what the public want? If only someone had asked them…


Well here goes. Someone has, and according to some exclusive polling commissioned for Yasper ahead of the launch of a new insight report – The State of Devolution – we asked 1,001 respondents in West Yorkshire, whether they thought the mayor should have more or less power.


Before we delve into the results – believe me, it’s worth the wait – let’s examine what the levelling-up minister has said. According to the front page of the Yorkshire Post, he will: ‘unveil new devolution agreements with mayors Oliver Coppard [South Yorkshire] and Tracy Brabin [West Yorkshire] “so they match powers” given to other regions.’. The clear intent is more powers for mayors.


Our The State of Devolution report polled 1,001 people in West Yorkshire and the same number in the Tees Valley mayoral authority areas in February, and it’s fair to say threw up some bombshell statistics. We’ll release the full findings in due course, but given Michael Gove’s announcements of more powers, we wanted to release a sneak peak of what the public thought about such an expansion of remit.


Asked the question ‘Thinking about the remit of the mayor, do you think the mayor should have…’

·      More powers – 25%

·      The same powers as now – 46%

·      Less powers – 11%

·      Abolish the position – 18%


The figures in Tees Valley are even more stark, showing a resistance to change. Asked the same question and having been given an overview of mayoral powers as per the combined authority website:

·      More powers – 21%

·      The same powers as now – 58%

·      Less powers – 9%

·      Abolish the position – 12%

Now I know that asking public opinion might seem like an extreme overreaction in the circumstances, but I personally feel that’s where the levelling-up agenda has failed to deliver – too much talking and not enough listening.


I’ve already spoken to a range of media about the wider results, but should any require comment, try the below for size: “Devolution isn’t something that can be imposed on the electorate. People need to be engaged and genuinely excited by what it can deliver. Our polling shows that there is little appetite for an expansion in remit for the role of West Yorkshire Mayor.


“For levelling-up to be meaningful, powers need to be seen to be working, and, at the moment, there is significant public scepticism. The North needs more than semi-regular promises of a better life from national politicians.”


Quotes attributable to Julian Pearce, founder of communications agency Yasper (link to be included in all online pieces).


As for the full report, we ask a range of questions, including gathering the voting intentions of the people of these two key mayoral authorities; gauging the public understanding of who their mayor is; and if they feel the incumbent in each area has been effective.


Watch this space.

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