Wednesday, 16 March 2016

George Osborne announces three mayors for Bristol and King Guthrum the Third

More devolution is on the way to some pretty strangely drawn lines on the map following the budget today. And some of the existing devolution deals - including that to Cornwall - have been strengthened.

The Chancellor has always been a fan of devolution on his own terms. His great scheme is the 'Northern Powerhouse' and this got a further boost today. We also heard of money for London's 'Crossrail 2' - but not enough to actually make the scheme feasible yet. And there was money for the Marine Enterprise Zone in Cornwall and for the Hall for Cornwall - both very welcome.

But it will be the new devolution deals which provoke most reaction. There is one for Lincolnshire, one for the West of England and one for East Anglia.

The West of England deal will be a snub to those people (some 80% of voters) who rejected a directly elected mayor for the Bath and North East Somerset area as recently as last Thursday. Now, as part of their acceptance of new powers in a region covering the Bristol and Bath areas they will be forced to take on a directly elected 'mayor'.

So people in Bristol will have three mayors:

- A Lord Mayor (who does the ceremonial stuff)
- A Directly Elected Mayor of Bristol
- A Directly Elected Mayor of the devolved region.

It could get confusing.

In comparison, the devolution deal agreed with Cornwall saw no requirement for a new directly elected mayor. I know which I think is is the better deal.

There will also be confusion over the devolution package for East Anglia. There is no agreement from the City of Cambridge to participate and so there is a hole in the map. The participation of Cambridgeshire County Council is also in some doubt as the Tories (who back the idea) are in a minority on the authority.

The last leader of 'East Anglia' was King Guthrum II in 918. So are we about to see Guthrum III?

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