Manchester City Council’s leader has defended plans to establish an elected mayor for the city region without a public vote, after facing a public backlash over the proposal with a campaign already launched against it.
The news comes after chancellor George Osborne brokered a devolution deal with the city region last year – handing over major finance, transport and planning powers - on the condition the area has a directly elected metro mayor.
Trade union councils have now started a petition calling for a public vote on the plan, which could bring in an elected mayor as early as 2017 - just five years after the city of Manchester rejected the idea in a government backed referendum in 2012.
Campaign spokesman Stephen Hall said: ‘Our view is that if the Devo Manc deal is such a good thing, as some are saying, then what do George Osborne and Manchester’s council leaders have to fear from putting the whole thing out to greater scrutiny and letting the people of Greater Manchester decide whether they want it or not?’
Council leader Sir Richard Leese however told Transport Network: ‘The [previous] referendum was for a mayor for Manchester not for Greater Manchester. That proposal would have taken power away from the existing council and given it to one person with no actual extra powers or resources for the city at all - so it didn’t really offer anything.
‘What we are talking about now is something that brings significantly more powers and some resources to the whole of greater Manchester, not just to the city, but in a way that does not take powers away from any of the councils. It takes all the power from central government and it builds on the existing arrangement we have with the combined authority because the elected mayor will be the 11th member of the combined authority.
‘So this is not a fundamental constitutional change for greater Manchester as its not a constitutional change I don’t see any need or serious argument for why there would be a referendum.’
However senior Conservative and leader of Hampshire CC Roy Perry sided against his own party and agreed that the decision was not democratic.
He said it would be ‘a disaster if the devolution agenda became a bureaucratic one rather than a democratic one’, however he also conceded Manchester was getting a better deal than the South East as a result of the move.