Leader tipped for super council title

Lord Smith officially opening Southgate, the Saddle relief road from Pottery Road to Saddle Junction

Lord Smith officially opening Southgate, the Saddle relief road from Pottery Road to Saddle Junction

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WIGAN’S council leader could be in line to land a new role as the figurehead of a Greater Manchester “super council”.

As part of plans to hand more powers to the country’s regions, the GM combined authorities could have more say on tax and training budgets.

Council leader Lord Smith last week told the Evening Post the region would not need a Boris Johnson-style directly elected mayor as a result.

But the authorities have identified they would need a figurehead and Lord Smith has been installed as an early frontrunner.

That could mean the Labour peer would be required to step down from his role within the borough.

Speaking to the Evening Post, Lord Smith played down the speculation linking him to the new position.

He said: “We are at a very early stage of discussions and it depends on the Government granting new powers devolving major responsibilities.

“The GM leaders have deliberately decided we don’t want a Boris figure and will continue to work together as 10 authorities.”

In the wake of the Scottish referendum, ministers are discussing as to whether to pass on extra decision making powers to localised government.

A leading think-tank said earlier this month that Manchester should be a “trail-blazer” for any regional devolution plans.

With discussions at an early stage, it is not known whether the leadership role in GM would be a separate paid role.

Lord Smith - who is already the chair of the GM combined authority - had previously spoken out in support of any devolution proposals.

He said: “We believe that local people are better placed to make the best decisions on what skills are needed in the GM labour market than a bunch of London-based civil servants.”

The devolution plans are expected to be outlined by chancellor George Osborne in December and could mean a £1bn package with control over skills budgets.