DevoIntelligence is DevoConnect's regular bulletin designed to keep you up to date and well informed about everything that’s happening in England’s devolution evolution. Read the full edition online here.
On 3rd May, voters in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield will go to the polls to elect the first metro mayor for the Sheffield City Region.
It’s an election which has been delayed because of some local opposition to the city region’s devolution deal, among those who support a Yorkshire-wide mayoralty instead.
But with the election campaign under way, and candidates confirmed for all relevant political parties, it’s time to move these debates on to the big issues the new mayor will need to address when they take office.
Indeed, the successful candidate will have a unique opportunity to make a difference on the issues that matter most to people’s day-to-day lives across the city region, such as housing, skills and transport.
To help focus these debates, Centre for Cities is bringing together candidates from the key political parties for a hustings on 20th April in Meadowhall in Sheffield, to discuss their economic policies in particular (click here to attend).
But as a starter for ten, we’ve also published a briefing setting out what we think are the most important policy priorities for the new mayor, given the powers and influence at their disposal. These include a “quick win” to set the tone for their time in office, as well as a strategic objective and a long term vision.
Firstly, the mayor can have an immediate impact by taking action to tackle pollution in the city region, which is home to some of the highest levels of NO2 in the country. One way to do so would be to introduce a clean air charge in the city region’s most congested areas, aimed specifically at the most polluting vehicles. This might be controversial, but would make a big difference in improving air quality, and would also generate much-needed funding to improve public transport links across the city region.
A strategic priority could be to develop a spatial plan to boost the city region’s commercial centres. The UK’s most prosperous cities are those which have large numbers of high skilled businesses in their city centres, but Sheffield City Region lags behind on this front. Setting out a plan to make the city centres of Sheffield, Doncaster and Barnsley more attractive to high skilled businesses – for example, by improving office space and infrastructure – will help bring more jobs and opportunities to the city region.
Finally, a long-term goal for the mayor should be to address skills deficits at all ranges. Sheffield City Region has a higher than average share of residents with no formal qualifications, and tackling this issue will be crucial in helping those people – and the city region’s economy – to thrive. In particular, he or she should use the adult skills budget to help more working-age residents gain the skills they need to get into work.
There’s a lot at stake for the new mayor. Showing that they mean business from day one will not only be vital in building trust with people who live and work in the area, it will also be crucial in realising their vision for the city region and securing the long term future of the mayoral office.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester came together with leaders from the Northern Powerhouse, the automotive industry and related sectors to discuss the future of greener transport in the North and the resulting business opportunities.
Following on from Greater Manchester’s recent Green Summit, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s (LowCVP) 2018 ‘Moving North’ Conference focused on the challenge of cutting carbon emissions and air pollution from transport, and seizing the business opportunities – across the automotive and fuel supply chains, and through to transport companies and innovators in the Northern Powerhouse.
The central question to Burnham was whether devolution of power to the English regions accelerate the change to greener transport. In his keynote he pitched Greater Manchester as a 'laboratory', where low carbon initiatives could be trialled and then replicated nationally. Burnham also suggested that the city-region is likely to set a new target date for carbon neutrality, at least a decade ahead of the UK’s current 2050 goal.