Leeds to lead mayoral charge?

An interesting development yesterday when Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced that Greater Manchester is to have a Boris-style directly elected mayor in 2017.  

He or she will have control of billions of pounds of public money and responsibility for a wide range of policy areas including transport, planning, housing, skills and policing.  

The mayor will lead the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and preside over a cabinet made up of the leaders of the area's 10 local authorities.

The local reaction was positive with Sir Richard Leese, the Leader of Manchester City Council, welcoming the opportunity "to demonstrate what a city region with greater freedoms can achieve and contribute further to the growth of the UK."

Sir Richard is already the bookies' 3/1 favourite to be elected to the post, with former Manchester United manager David Moyes available at a somewhat stingy 200/1.  

Mr Osborne also made clear that he was very keen to talk to other English cities wishing to follow Manchester's example.  "Every city is different and no model of local power will be the same," the Chancellor said.  "Giving cities power is part of our long-term economic plan to reduce the decades-old gap between north and south, London and the rest." 

Speculation is already building about which city will be first to accept the challenge with Leeds widely thought to be at the head of the queue.  

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier today, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander did little to dampen the speculation. 

Responding to a question from Leeds West MP Greg Mulholland, he said: "If the leaders of Leeds wish to come forward with proposals for further devolution and more power over the things you have been talking about, to ensure that we get the right economic developments in the Leeds area, we would be delighted to have those discussions in an active way, to try to settle a deal there as well."

With further developments expected in the Chancellor's annual Autumn Statement next month, this is certainly one to watch.