For those needing a concise and easily understandable guide to what the new directly elected Mayors and Combined Authorities will be able to do, the Department of Communities and Local Government has produced a suite of plain English guides. There is a guide for each mayoral combined authority area which sets out how it is run, the powers the mayor and the combined authority will have, the budgets at their command and who will be responsible for what. There is also a guide for Cornwall, which although not adopting a directly elected mayor, is taking forward a devolution deal.
For the West Midlands Mayor and Combined Authority, the guide notes that they will have a “functional power of competence”, meaning they can legally do “anything individuals generally may do if they consider that it is necessary to exercise their functions, unless the law specifically prohibits it”. The Mayor will also be able to set a precept on local council tax bills to help pay for their work, and subject to the Local Government Finance Bill, will be able to raise an infrastructure levy of up to 2p in the pound from local businesses. Also subject to legislation, the Combined Authority will be able to borrow money, up to a cap agreed with Government, to deliver their new responsibilities in areas such as economic regeneration and housing.
A range of more specific powers, responsibilities, decision-making processes and budgets are set out and explained in a straightforward question and answer format. The guide’s introduction summarises these powers as the ability to:
Department of Communities and Local Government - Devolution: A Mayor for the West Midlands. What does it mean? April 2017
Department of Communities and Local Government - Devolution and mayors: what does it mean? April 2017