2021 Mayoral Elections – what are the parties saying about community power in England?

April 30, 2021  

Voters across Great Britain will head to the polls on 6 May 2021 for important national and local elections. But what are the main contenders saying about community power? We’ve read the manifestos so you don’t have to. Part 3: the London Mayor and Combined Authority Mayor elections in England. 

In this series: Part 1 on the Senedd election in Wales and Part 2 on the Holyrood election in Scotland.

London

A shoo-in to secure a second term as Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (Labour) pledges to develop a new Community Micro-grants programme to enable Londoners who are “frozen out of local decision making” to influence their local communities (p.93).

He promises to:

  • review how to enhance community involvement in planning decisions (p.96)
  • support Londoners to have access to a “community hub” (p.93)
  • and promote “a wider community wealth building agenda” (p.73).

Among the challengers, Shaun Bailey (Conservative) will create more community land trusts in order to “devolve power to neighbourhoods” (p.33).

Luisa Porritt (Liberal Democrat) will publish a Statement of Community Involvement to assure Londoners that all planning decisions in the city will be subject to “proper community engagement and participation” (p.34).

Sian Berry (Green Party) will introduce participatory budgeting for up to 20 per cent of the Greater London Authority budget by 2024 (p.107) and campaign for the full devolution of planning, housing and some taxation policies (such as council tax) to London.

Mayoral contests in Combined Authorities

Mayors are up for election in seven combined authorities: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands, West of England and West Yorkshire.

Some mayoral candidates have published full manifestos; others have focused on a small number of key commitments.

Among the candidates who put out manifestos, one of the more common pledges is to do more to promote community wealth building. For example, Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester, Labour) plans to establish a Community Wealth Hub in Greater Manchester’s Growth Hub.

A few mayoral candidates made additional pledges to empower communities and give them a stronger voice in combined authority decision-making. Here are some of the most innovative and interesting ones. Of course, our selection of pledges does not imply endorsement of any candidate.

  • Andy Street (West Midlands, Conservative) will convene an Equalities Taskforce, including “representatives of all communities”, to look at the specific issues facing under-represented communities in combined authority policy areas, such as housing, transport and skills.
  • Jerome Thomas (West of England, Green Party) will invite town and parish councils to take part in combined authority decision-making through a regular Community Forum.
  • Jessie Joe Jacobs (Tees Valley, Labour) will set up an official Tees Valley Citizen Assembly and launch a Community Assets Fund to help communities take ownership of local assets.
  • Liam Byrne (West Midlands, Labour) will create a single ‘one stop pot’ to fast-track arts, sports and culture funding to community groups and make the application process easier for them to navigate.
  • Samuel Williams (West of England, Conservative) will develop the region’s Community Ambassadors scheme to “build stronger community engagement” in business growth, skills and training opportunities.
  • Steve Rotheram (Liverpool City Region, Labour) will establish a VCFSE (voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise) Sector Resilience and Capacity Fund to develop the sector’s long-term capacity and resilience.
  • Tracy Brabin (West Yorkshire, Labour) will appoint a set of Future Generations Commissioners in West Yorkshire to ensure that political decision-making in the region takes greater account of long-term impact and sustainability.

Key Takeaway

It is clear from the manifestos that the highly effective response of communities throughout the country to the pandemic has influenced mayoral candidates’ commitments to support and empower communities.

It’s encouraging to see so many candidates highlighting a role for mayors in creating a space for citizens to play a bigger part in local decision-making.

We’ve seen that one of the major powers of the so-called ‘metro mayors’ is ‘soft power’ – using their public profile to bring people and organisations together behind a common cause.

Let’s hope that new and re-elected mayors across England can use their platforms to empower communities.


Photo: © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA-4.0