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Final form of devolution bill requires elected mayors in return for powers

The final agreed form of the UK government's Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill requires combined authorities to appoint an elected mayor in order to receive powers transferred from central government.26 Jan 2016

The Bill will allow the communities secretary to make an order providing for there to be a mayor for the area of a combined authority. The House of Lords inserted a sub-clause into the Bill in July, preventing the communities secretary from using such an order as a condition for the transfer of powers. However, the sub-clause was subsequently removed from the Bill by an amendment proposed by the House of Commons and agreed by the House of Lords earlier this month.

Councils that object to the introduction of a mayor or the transfer of powers will be able to be removed from the relevant combined authority but will not be able to prevent consenting councils from proceeding. As originally drafted, the Bill allowed only one objecting council to be removed from a combined authority but a late amendment will allow an elected mayor to be put in place and devolution to proceed where one or more councils are opposed.

Other amendments made to the Bill after a final debate in the House of Lords this month will enable elected mayors to delegate functions specified in an order from the communities secretary and will allow mayors to exercise their functions jointly with other authorities or combined authorities.

Planning expert Elizabeth Wiseman of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said: "The final form of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill has reverted to the position that any transfer of powers under the Bill must 'involve a city-wide elected executive mayor'.  This amendment was to be expected given the government's keen support for the policy from the outset. "

"Greater Manchester already has an interim mayor in office in return for the devolution of powers," said Wiseman. "Other authorities will therefore be watching carefully to see the mayoral-led devolution model in action and see if there are any key lessons to be learned."

At the time of writing, no date had been set for the bill to receive royal assent.