Want Devolution? Then get an Elected Mayor!


So, it couldn’t be clearer. If city regions and county’s want what Manchester has in terms of devolved powers and additional resources, then they will have to adopt a governance model that includes an elected mayor.

George Osborne has thrown down the gauntlet to the likes of Leeds and Liverpool, who had indicated outright opposition to such a proposition; and he has provided counties such as Lancashire with the opportunity of genuinely getting involved in the Northern Powerhouse project.

It didn’t take Leeds long to accept that, with a majority Tory government in situ for the next five years (and way beyond that if the Labour Party continues to act as it is at the moment), a more pragmatic approach to the ‘metro mayor’ idea was required. The chairman of the Leeds Combined Authority, Peter Box, has conceded that it is something that must be explored, and I would expect progress to be made fairly quickly in terms of a West Yorkshire deal with central government. I am certainly looking forward to hearing the thoughts of Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan at our forthcoming City of Leeds Business Awards evening on the 4th June.

Liverpool has remained virtually silent on the issue post-election, with city mayor Joe Anderson continuing his call for the other local authority leaders from across Merseyside to accept reality, but his comments seemingly falling on deaf ears. Unless and until the leaders from Halton, St Helens, Wirral and Knowsley demonstrate a more mature and practical response to the Osborne agenda than has thus far been the case, then the Liverpool City Region risks being side-lined from this hugely important agenda; and an increasingly frustrated business community may just start to agitate far more vociferously than has been the case so far.

For Lancashire, the chancellor’s latest speech in Manchester on the ‘devo’ subject last week gave the county some clarity and, hopefully, the reason for a collective and cohesive response to a debate that, up until now, had appeared to focus exclusively on city regions.

A ‘One Lancashire’ model, based on the boundaries currently operated by the Local Enterprise Partnership, is what Ministers prefer. Time will only tell if Lancashire’s political leaders do a ‘Leeds’ or do a ‘Liverpool’.

Burying heads in the sand, hoping for a different Whitehall policy on local government and devolution was barely credible before the General Election – it is beyond stupid now.

Make Downtown top of your ‘resolution’ list


Well here we go! Another New Year has arrived and we are all busy trying to maintain our ‘resolutions’ of cutting back on chocolate, ‘dry’ January, starting a new fitness regime, or whatever it might be. Good luck to all of you who have made a commitment and commiserations to those of you who have given up already.

The New Year is also an opportunity to review ambitions and plans for your business, and I hope part of your plan includes engagement with Downtown in Business which is planning a fantastic twelve months of activity, in terms of the events programme that we will offer; and the involvement in an increasingly interesting political landscape that will include a General Election and continued discussion over devolution and the Northern Powerhouse.

Helping business influence government thinking, and offering a genuine business voice for the North of England is a key Downtown objective, but equally important is supporting our members to maximise the potential of their business, and we are determined to build on the £800m plus worth of deals that we have facilitated for our network during the past decade.

That is partly about the quality introductions we can provide through our business support managers who are on the ground in each city, but it is also about enabling you access to intelligence and advice from some of the most successful entrepreneurs from across the UK.

To kick off what will be a series of Downtown events that will bring together members with a high growth mind-set and business leaders who have completed the high growth journey, we have a half day conference in Liverpool entitled Limitless – Developing a hyper growth Mind Set

Among the speakers will be two of the regions’ best known business mentors and coaches Andy Bounds and Michael Finnigan. There will also be a range of business owners who have ‘been there, done that and got the T-shirt’.

This is the type of networking that allows you to meet quality people and learn a thing or two as well. It is what Downtown does best, and if one of your resolutions is to grow your business in 2015, then it would be daft not to take advantage of what we will be offering this year. I look forward to seeing you at a number of our events this year, and wish you all the very best with your hopes and aspirations.

Happy New Year!

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