British Queen celebrates


Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to hold regular meetings with England's mayors, emphasizing that "those with skin in the game... make much better

decisions than people sitting in Westminster." On their fifth day in office, Starmer and Deputy Prime Minister Angela Rayner met with 12 regional mayors to discuss a "major programme of devolution."

Rayner, who also serves as communities secretary, stated that Westminster had "tightly gripped control" for too long, limiting opportunities for towns, cities, and villages across the UK. She highlighted that the Downing Street meeting aimed to "shift power out of Westminster" and toward the regions. Starmer underscored the importance of regional leaders, describing them as "absolutely central" to economic growth nationwide.

Labour has prioritized economic growth as one of its five key "missions" for government. As part of this mission, local leaders will be tasked with creating local growth plans that identify growth sectors and the necessary infrastructure to support them. This meeting marked the first occasion that all the mayors had convened in Downing Street.

Twelve areas in England, including Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, and Tees Valley, have devolution deals granting powers over transport, housing, and employment. Tees Valley's Conservative mayor, Ben Houchen, who recently secured a third term, is currently the only metro mayor not affiliated with Labour. He had a private 15-minute discussion with Starmer before the group meeting, agreeing on the importance of bipartisan collaboration.

Jim McMahon, communities minister, mentioned on BBC Breakfast that previously fragmented access to funds would now be streamlined into "a single pot of money that trusts our metro mayors to get on to do the job they’ve been elected to do." Tracy Brabin, mayor of West Yorkshire, expressed that the meeting represented a "welcome step change" in the relationship between mayors and the government.

A new council for regions and nations was announced during the meeting. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham welcomed this development, saying it would ensure regional voices are heard at Whitehall. London Mayor Sadiq Khan noted that the PM also discussed the potential for additional mayoral positions in other parts of the country.

South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard missed the meeting due to testing positive for COVID-19 but sent a letter outlining his priorities. He emphasized the need for a brighter future for the youth in South Yorkshire.

The devolution deals, which expanded under the Conservatives, were part of a 'levelling-up' strategy aimed at reducing regional inequality. More areas, including Suffolk, Norfolk, and Greater Lincolnshire, are set to receive devolved powers by 2025. Rayner indicated that the new government is focused on a "full reset of our relationship with local government."

Coinciding with the meeting, the government announced the termination of the term 'levelling up.' The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, named by Boris Johnson in 2021, will revert to its former title, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, now led by Angela Rayner. Photo by Prime Minister's Office, Wikimedia commons.