As I wrote a couple of days ago, the idea of devolving power to local communities from a centralised Government is something that has many benefits to all of us. The many local Government bodies here in Sussex are committed to that course of action and unless this policy turns out to be yet another U turn from the Government under its new leader, the Government is also committed to this approach. We then will be left with the process being done to us whatever our views, unless the idea of consultation suddenly becomes something Councillors and MPs treat seriously. However one of the issues for them to resolve is that of a directly elected senior person or Mayor. It worked for London, there are other examples of it working well elsewhere. One of the two competing bids for local devolution here in Sussex is 3SC. Unlike their rival, the Greater Brighton Area, they are being open with some of their ideas and plans. According to the recent posting by 3SC:
“At the last Leaders meeting on 19 September they agreed to set up a Sounding Board, which is made up of a small group of councillors from across the three counties. This group will discuss, debate and agree some of the key issues relating to the governance of the 3SC area, including how decisions will be made. This may include questions around creating a structure with or without a mayor and the implications for the power of the Combined Authority to issue a precept as a way of raising money to contribute to the revolving infrastructure fund.”
I have highlighted the section in bold and it is here that we need to be aware, a decision will be taken, with or without our consent, probably without it. I know from talking to leaders of Councils in Sussex that there is no appetite for a Mayor and many residents may be pleased about that. However we will end up with a Mayoral team by any other name. The three upper tier areas will almost certainly continue to focus on their three person sounding board as a way of deciding combined policies, and in the Greater Brighton Area, the leaders of the 4 Councils will exercise power in much the same way. Perhaps we would be better off with a Mayor? we may never know. If the Councils do decide to go the Mayoral route, if this discussion in Manchester is anything to go by, the most likely candidates selected by the two dominant political parties will either be Council Leaders or MPs wanting to change their careers. Hardly a diverse pool of talent to fish in! We will be left with power in the hands of the same parties that dominate Westminster.