Londoners overwhelmingly want more power being transferred from Whitehall to City Hall, according to a new poll about devolution to city regions conducted for think tank Centre for Cities.
The survey by Savanta ComRes found that 85 per cent of Londoners support further devolution to their regional government – the joint highest, with Greater Manchester, of any region except Tess Valley, where the figure was 87 per cent.
The survey included 606 residents of Greater London within its sample of over 3,500 people living in eight English city regions.
Londoners also demonstrated the second highest rate of name recognition for their Mayor, with 60 per cent knowing it is Sadiq Khan. Only Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham, at 63 per cent, enjoyed a higher rating from people in his area. However, 11 per cent of Londoners said they didn’t know they have a Mayor at all.
The poll was commissioned in order to test public appetites for further transfers of decision-making powers from Whitehall in advance of 6 May elections, which will see voters choose Mayors for the eight city-regions polled.
The findings for Greater London placed more powers over provision of affordable housing at the top of the list of policy areas for greater devolved powers, followed by supporting businesses, access to skills and training, more tax and spending autonomy and control over local trains.
Affordable housing also topped the list for people living in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, West Midlands, West Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. For the Tees Valley and the West of England, business support was the highest priority, with housing second.
Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter said the poll shows that, “People in England’s largest city regions overwhelmingly support shifting power out of Whitehall and down to their communities. As places look to recover from the pandemic, it is vital that the government listens to demands for more devolution and gives mayors and other local leaders the powers and resources to build back better.”
The Conservatives’ December 2019 general election manifesto said “our ambition is for full devolution across England, building on the successful devolution of powers to city region mayors, police and crime commissioners and others, so that every part of our country has the power to shape its own destiny.”
However, a promised English Devolution White Paper has been postponed and ministers have exerted their central government powers to reduce the Labour London Mayor’s control of his London Plan spatial development blueprint and to impose conditions on financial support for Transport for London after its finances were devastated by the impacts of Covid-19, raising concerns that mayoral powers are being reduced for party political reasons.
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