Promises made, money earmarked and pledges committed. Politicians can sometimes be accused of saying anything to get elected.
But with 100 days since the May 2021 local elections, we thought it was time to take a look at how the various metro mayors have started their new terms.
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North of England
The two Brand Burnhams
Thomas Parfitt on how Burnham has kick started his second term in Greater Manchester
Following his re-coronation in May, Labour’s King in the North Andy Burnham has been embarking on two very different quests – with two contrasting grails.
Hyperlocal, friendly-neighbourhood-politician Andy has been pushing on with his key manifesto objectives: furthering Greater Manchester’s transport reforms, moving forward with the clean air zone, and tackling a homelessness crisis becoming more acute as pandemic support measures end.
Here he has been playing to the crowd that elected him with a huge local mandate (67 per cent of the vote). His overall popularity – which YouGov ranks above both Sir Keir Starmer and Sadiq Kahn – is undiminished, and he has remained a strong critic of the Johnson administration’s levelling-up policies, arguing they should be managed by regional not national government.
But here we also find another Andy Burnham. One with a column in the Evening Standard – who calls for national unity and is openly critical of the policy directions of his party’s leader. This is the Andy Burnham who told media that Labour had his number if they wanted a new leader and wants constitutional reform that will shift power away from Westminster. The kind of boldness that the oft-forgotten ‘middle-of-the-road-cabinet-minister’ Burnham could perhaps have benefitted from some years ago.
We questioned in May whether Burnham’s focus on solving local issues and being a voice for the north could resonate wide enough to really fuel a pitch on the national stage. 100 days on, and it’s a case of two Brand Burnhams. Time will tell if his interests beyond Manchester come at a cost to local progress and success, or perhaps he can walk the tightrope and do both – laying the foundations for a Labour leadership or (whisper it) Prime Ministerial bid down the road.
Delivering on Teesside
Kat Wingate considers what’s happened on Teesside since the May elections
The Tees Valley mayor, Conservative Ben Houchen, campaigned on his "record of delivery, a promise of more". It clearly worked, given his thumping victory in May. The successes in his first 100 days are a continuation of the wheels set in motion during his first term.
Houchen campaigned with a focus on jobs, the freeport, and transport. It was always going to be hard to beat the series of headline announcements in the run-up to the May elections; there are only so many government departments which can be relocated to the north-east.
However, Houchen does continue to deliver. In the last 100 days, he has announced a state-of-the-art heavy lift quay, supporting 2,250 jobs at GE’s new turbine plant (plus hundreds more construction jobs).
He has also mastered the art of celebrating successes for the region from initial outline plans through to delivery of tangible outcomes. The last 100 days have celebrated the promise of 100 investor inquiries from global companies wanting to base themselves at Teesside Freeport, and plans for the return of steelmaking.
It hasn’t, though, been all smooth sailing. While transport was another of his key campaign areas, the results of the last 100 days are mixed. Houchen, the poster mayor of the Conservative Party, is now having to call on his friends in cabinet to rethink a new train timetable which would cause chaos for an area already under-served by rail.
Notably, the focus on a green future seems to have slipped the radar. However, a green economic future always played second fiddle to the promise of jobs in an area deprived of industry for so long, and Houchen has certainly brought opportunities to the region.
Doing things differently?
How has Liverpool city region’s Steve Rotheram spent the last 100 days? Roxy Blake takes a look
Steve Rotheram’s vow to leave no one behind with his levelling up ambitions for the Liverpool City Region continues to echo in his actions following his re-election.
His pledges to improve connectivity and opportunity with a London-style transport system and young person’s guarantee have taken a more robust shape in his Corporate Plan. This roadmap to making the region “cleaner, greener and fairer” offers up a more detailed picture of promising change by 2024, explaining in 62 actions how the region will get there.
If Rotheram’s campaign pledges seemed bold, then the regions’ less-convinced voters will certainly be reassured with the details – still bold, but now specific. A fleet of 53 new trains, 212km of fibre optic cable and a self-proclaimed leader of the green industrial revolution.
Devolution looks to be a key mechanism in Rotheram’s plans to redefine the region and its potential. This has been most evident in his plans to take control of Mersey Rail.
Doing things differently seems to be at the heart of Rotheram’s action plan. It’s certainly how his offer is positioned. He is going so far as to redefine what constitutes success, with a focus on health, happiness and wellbeing, not just GDP.
Will this transformation prove to be as radical as it seems? Worth watching this space because if – in 2024 – it is, then the Liverpool City Region could make a good General Election case study for the Labour party.
Clean and green in West Yorkshire
Alistair Parker considers the first 100 days for the new Mayor of West Yorkshire
Labour’s Tracy Brabin is forging ahead at pace on manifesto commitments made prior to her election as the first mayor for the region in May.
Alongside lobbying the government for greater powers in tackling the climate emergency, the recently announced ‘Green Jobs Gateway’ is her centrepiece initiative. Aimed at getting young people under 30 into high-skilled green jobs, it’s the start of her commitment to provide 1,000 new clean technology jobs for the region.
The former MP for Batley and Spen is set to continue the green trajectory with plans, due to be announced next month on how West Yorkshire will become a net zero carbon economy by 2038 .
The climate agenda isn’t the only pressing issue in the in-tray. Brabin has pressed on with plans to increase public control of West Yorkshire’s bus services through the ‘Enhanced Bus Partnership’. She’s taken tentative steps to deliver police and crime reforms promised during the campaign, but much of the success there will depend on whether she can convince central government to deliver the 750 new police officers she wants.
To top off her first 100 days in office, Brabin also saw her party avoid a major headache with the retention of Batley and Spen in the by-election triggered by her departure to become mayor. Kim Leadbeater, the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, secured a narrow victory by seeing off a confident Conservative candidate and a resurgent George Galloway. That win ensures Labour remains the dominant political force in the region for the foreseeable future.
Gigafactory “mission critical” as Street powers ahead
Giles Venn looks at how West Midlands’ Andy Street has started his second term
It's been business as usual in the West Midlands for former John Lewis boss and current Conservative mayor Andy Street following his comfortable victory in May. In the run up to polling day Street set out a 12-point agenda for his first 100 days, which included targets on investment, job creation, economic growth and housing. A scroll through his slick and polished social media feeds certainly leaves no doubt he is a man on a mission to deliver.
Supporting a green recovery has been a strong overarching theme and Street has positioned himself prominently, having hosted a pre-COP26 summit in July with regional leaders from the across the globe to discuss the role regional government can play in tackling the climate challenge.
His ability to deliver on his own pledges hinge significantly on securing a new gigafactory in Coventry, which he has described as “mission critical”. Outline plans were submitted last month, and pressure is mounting from opposition leaders and the region’s automotive sector to get this over the line.
Street’s wider ambitions for improved transport infrastructure, urban regeneration and affordable housing will rest on securing inward investment and additional government funding. With his critics citing a poor record on the latter, it will be interesting to see how his relationship with the Johnson administration evolves, particularly given some of Johnson’s election materials urged voters to ignore the mayor's party affiliation.
Collaboration over confrontation
Ellie Hainsworth considers how Peterborough and Cambridgeshire’s Dr Nik Johnson has settled into his new job
With 100 days under his belt, the new Labour Mayor of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Dr Nik Johnson appears to be holding true to his promise of a collaborative approach to leadership. It’s a neat contrast to his predecessor, Conservative James Palmer, whose strained relationship with government ministers and local bodies such as the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) was the subject of much press attention.
Signposting this change was Nik Johnson’s decision to appoint a Conservative deputy leader to the Combined Authority as one of his first acts as Mayor. However, his determination to work across the political divide has not been completely smooth, with opposition members of the Combined Authority accusing him of failing to collaborate on ambitious climate targets. Nevertheless, Mayor Johnson was able to win the vote, helped by the backing of his new deputy leader.
The mayor’s fresh approach also extends to a new transport strategy. Sticking to his election promise, plans for the Cambridge Autonomous Metro have been suspended and a revamped Local Transport Plan will be devised with the help of local bodies before going to consultation later this year. The decision to suspend the metro scheme was welcomed by GCP and East West Rail – the company establishing a rail link between Oxford and Cambridge – whose plans clashed with the metro scheme.
For now, Johnson’s new collaborative approach is certainly paying dividends.
South of England
London’s Khan ready to look to the future
Ben Lewis reflects on the start of the London mayor’s second term
The first 100 days of Sadiq Khan's second term as Mayor of London have largely been a continuation of the last 100 of his first.
As with everywhere else, Covid-19, Khan's response, and London's future following the pandemic have dominated the headlines. The pressure is on Khan to 'get London moving' again and deliver the strong, fair, green recovery he has been promising Londoners.
The rhetoric of the mayor’s 'Welcome back London' campaign is indicative of the mayor's willingness to reopen London and has shown some positive glimpses of success, but it is still too soon to say if London is firmly on the path to recovery at this stage.
One win was the late cancellation of tube strikes scheduled for the start of the month. Such disruption at such a precarious time in London's recovery had the potential to cause serious damage.
Relations with TfL more widely are set continue to be a key theme of his second term. The temporary deal he struck with the Government over TfL is symbolic of the wider relationship between the two – just about functional in its current form but not designed for long-term stability. The onus is on both the Mayor of London and central government to improve this.
Khan will be desperate to move on from these short-term issues, and to shift his focus to his priorities and the priorities of Londoners that pre-date the pandemic. He promises a safer, fairer, and greener London, and will be hoping to move on from the pandemic and deliver.
Norris gets going quickly in West of England
Michael Philps takes a look at how Labour’s Dan Norris has started in his first 100 days
Dan Norris has hit the ground running in his first 100 days, securing an eye-catching increase in the region’s transport budget from central government.
Worth between £540 million and £880 million over five years, Norris has hailed the investment as an opportunity to make “real change” to transport links in the West of England. This rhetoric has carried over into action, with the mayor determined to work with local leaders to identify the best ways of using the new cash.
It's an example of how well the metro mayor system can work – a Labour mayor working with Conservative central government to solve major regional issues. But it’s much easier to handover cash than it is to get spades in the ground. Expect close scrutiny of progress over the next few years, to see how this co-operation delivers on the ground.
Norris has also been quick to take action to encourage shoppers and visitors back into the region’s town and city centres, as a response to Covid and to combat longer trends of high street decline. The Combined Authority is investing millions, for instance, in Bath city centre, supporting the local authority’s bid to fill empty shops and regenerate the surrounding area.
All in all it’s been an energetic start to a mayoralty that could become the posterchild for metro mayors across the country. Whether Norris can maintain this start will be one to watch over the next four years.