Directly elected mayors

Q:  George Osborne has promised "serious devolution" for cities that adopt elected mayors. What do you think?

Sir Richard Leese, leader, Manchester City Council.Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council and chair of the Core Cities cabinet.

We believe that the existing governance arrangements for Greater Manchester, through the combined authority, work well but would welcome extra freedoms to shape the destiny of our own region and are always willing to engage in any conversation about how this can be achieved.

However, it should be for Greater Manchester to decide how it will be governed, not remote politicians or Whitehall.

Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council.

The people of the North East voted against elected mayors in 2012, but that doesn't give Government the right to withhold power from cities that won't back elected mayors.

This seems to me to be a smokescreen to prevent the devolution of powers from Whitehall that are needed if regional economies are to grow faster. It seems like an Alice in Wonderland way of going about politics, particularly when combined authorities have been set up for just this purpose.

The Government is more obsessed with vanity projects like elected mayors than devolving powers to local communities.

Paul Dossett, head of local government at Grant Thronton UK.Paul Dossett, head of local government, Grant Thornton UK.

There are currently 15 councils who have adopted the elected mayoral governance model and, on balance, my understanding is that the experience has been positive.

Elected mayors are able to focus on external relationships and priorities, such as inward investment, that traditional council models find more challenging. When done well, this results in elected mayors fostering a clear identity for a locality, such as Newham or Bristol, which can support wider strategic initiatives. A change in mayor, including a change in the political party they represent, has seen a continuity of that link between mayor and locality, as London demonstrates.

After the decision of many large cities to not go down the electoral mayoral route in 2012, Chancellor George Osborne is now looking at given some Northern metropolitan councils a second bite at the cherry. To do this, he is offering to devolve powers and funding similar to that used in London. I think councils might want to get that in writing before proceeding!

The cities concerned will need to persuade their communities to vote for the mayoral model, because the benefits are clear and unequivocal. The Chancellor needs to better outline how the planned devolution will support locality and sub-regional growth agendas.

I also think he needs be serious about fiscal devolution. By this I mean providing those councils that adopt the model with some level of tax-raising powers, even if only on a gradualist basis, rather than simply devolving central budgets, such as those relating to transport, with the purse strings still controlled by Whitehall. Symbols of intent are important and the Chancellor needs to deliver a clear direction of travel.

Neil McInroy, Centre for Local Economic Strategies.Neil McInroy, chief executive, Centre for Local Economic Strategies.

This is always a mystery to me, really. Focussing on a type of government - it's a form; it's just a thing, a way of administering power. We need to know about function - what the hell they would be doing. What powers would they have? It seems to be a little bit of the cart before the horse.

It's up to local areas to decide what they want. Elected mayors may be an option - I don't think there's anything wrong with elected mayors but I think hold on, what's the function and let local areas decide. This is not a panacea; you don't just have an elected mayor and everything will be alright.

It can good to have a figurehead, it's good to have an individual who carries cans. I would say, though, that we have a crisis in democracy. Not many people vote. Not many people respect politicians. What we need is a broad, deep democracy. We need people to get more involved in politics. Is an elected mayor broadening and deepening democracy? What it does is it narrows it, it makes it shallower, it makes it about one person. Is that really what we want?

What matters is the freedom of local authorities and combined authorities to steer their own destiny away from the tramlines of Whitehall.

Cllr Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council.

I believe it is up to local people to decide how they would prefer their city to be run. In 2012, Leeds was offered the opportunity to switch to an elected mayor as part of a Government referendum. People in this city delivered a resounding No vote, with almost two thirds voting in opposition.

We have a strong city-region, with clear accountability and governance arrangements, which is focussed on using the collective strengths of local authorities to benefit the communities we represent. Leeds also works closely with other Core Cities to promote economic growth, provide jobs and boost skills.

From Yorkshire's perspective, I want to see the Government focus less on imposing new, expensive systems of government on local people and more on giving those regions the power and resources to get on with providing the physical and economic infrastructure they need to thrive.

Simon Parker, New Local Government Network.Simon Parker, director, New Local Government Network.

The public didn't particularly want to go for it [in 2012] in circumstances where local councillors, by and large, hated the idea and were campaigning against it.

And the Government had been very cagey about the kind of powers that might be devolved, so it was 'you elect the mayor and we'll negotiate the powers afterwards'.

The sell to the public was we can't tell you want these people will do but we can tell you that local politicians hate them.

If you look at what is happening in cities at the moment, you've got combined authorities emerging in most of the big Northern cities and increasingly in some of the shire areas. Those are models that rely a lot on really strong collaboration, really mature relationships - in Greater Manchester it's taken more than 30 years to build those up. Do you really want to plonk a directly elected mayor into the middle of that at this point when it's still being shaped or would that be more disruptive than it would do good?

But there are circumstances where they work quite well and the evidence shows that. I think in some ways, we haven't really given them a fair crack of the whip in most cities.

I'm not sure this is the moment to have a big debate about do we want to have directly elected mayors. On the other hand, I think in the medium to long term that is probably is a debate we should be having.