Six of England’s major cities will soon be under new leadership. If their powers are used effectively, these mayors could greatly improve the everyday lives of their citizens. This report addresses the gaps in policymaking that will enable them to deliver on this opportunity, and puts forward 30 policies that would transform their city regions.

60-second summary

England will soon welcome prominent and powerful city leaders. Six mayors will be elected to govern almost 10 million people and economies worth £214 billion – more than Scotland and Wales put together.

If the powers they hold are used effectively, these mayors could start to transform their city regions, but there has been little policy development for this purpose. This paper aims to fill the gap.

First, this paper sets out the three ‘enabling policies’ that mayors need to introduce: cutting across local and national silos to deliver against clear objectives, raising finance to invest, and gathering intelligence in order to enable innovation.

This paper then sets out a ‘menu’ of 30 things that these mayors could do to change their city regions for the better. These 30 policy ideas are set out across five broad outcomes, as described below.

Download the full evidence base for this paper (England's new leaders: Evidence base).

Mayors should deliver:

  • inclusive growth – by using transport policy to prioritise poor neighbourhoods, using mayoral development corporations to provide quality jobs for local people, and championing the living wage and higher employment standards
  • infrastructure, including planning, transport and housing – by integrating land use planning and working with central government to roll out financial innovations and housing investment
  • a healthy environment – by embedding health in all public policy, introducing a clean air charter, and setting up an energy company
  • effective public services – by setting up a new company to pilot ‘invest-to-save’ in employment support, collaborating with districts to end homelessness, and improving the quality of housing by investing in a social lettings agency and rolling out landlord licensing
  • inclusive democracy – by empowering citizens and councillors to take part in collaborative governance, and enhancing local enterprise partnerships to include anchor institutions, and requiring new members to pay the living wage.

Finally, this paper sets out a range of things which government will need to do for the potential of mayors to be truly realised.

Recommendations to mayors

This report proposes 30 policies that mayors can roll out to transform their city regions (see the table below).

Five of these should be regarded as top priority.

  • Become living wage champions, and set out a mayor’s employer charter on job quality (2).
  • Set up a welfare earnback company to secure ‘job guarantees’ for the long-term unemployed (19).
  • Implement bus franchising (8).
  • Embed health in all policy (14).
  • Spend a small share of their funds through participatory budgeting (29).

Finally, mayors should work together to drive further devolution, and by 2020 the government should strike a new series of devolution deals, prioritising fiscal devolution, and giving mayoral combined authorities across the country the powers to support their industrial strategy and public service reform.

Table A.1

Summary of this report’s recommendations and their outcomes; primary outcomes are highlighted in purple