Starmer to meet with new team of mayors to discuss devolution after local elections boost

Sir Keir Starmer will bring together Labour's newly expanded team of mayors on Monday to develop a "gold standard" for growing regional economies.

It comes after a string of victories in the local elections, with Labour seizing the West Midlands mayoralty after a knife-edge battle and Sadiq Khan seeing off Tory challenger Susan Hall to win a historic third term in London.

At a meeting in the West Midlands, Sir Keir will tell the mayors that boosting regional growth will be "top of the agenda" in Labour's devolution plans if it wins the next general election, and that he wants local leaders to be a "core part" of growing their economies.

However, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves committing to tough "fiscal rules", it is not clear if there will be any extra funding for local areas.

Speaking ahead of the first meeting, the Labour leader said: "These local elections showed that the British public is ready to put their trust in this changed Labour Party.

"We will repay that trust by delivering economic growth for everyone, everywhere in partnership with our Labour mayors.

"Our growing team of Labour mayors is already setting the agenda and delivering for local people despite a failing Tory government that is choking off our economy and hoarding power in Westminster."

Sir Keir has previously pledged to oversee a "fundamental shift" in politics through devolution and its "Take Back Control Act", which he said would give new powers to regional mayors over transport, skills, energy, and planning - something he branded "full-fat devolution".

Sky News has previously reported on how Sue Gray, the civil service partygate investigator turned chief of staff, has been key in improving the relationship between the Leader of the Opposition's Office (LOTO) and the metro mayors, which has sometimes been seen as strained due to disagreements over policy, including the war in Gaza.

In a display of strengthened ties, Sir Keir will tomorrow point to work already being done by Labour's mayors - such as Andy Burnham's bus rollout in Greater Manchester - and say this can help set a "gold standard" for future Local Growth Plans.

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But the Conservatives said Labour's mayors "have spent more time wading in on international issues they have no control over rather than delivering on people's priorities".

Tory party chairman Richard Holden added: "We are boosting regional growth and creating thriving communities, investing over £15bn in projects across the UK and backing 75 towns through our Long-Term Plan for Towns. Labour would take us back to square one."

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What seats did Labour win?

Labour's wins included Richard Parker's shock victory over Conservative Andy Street in the West Midlands, Claire Ward becoming the East Midlands's first elected mayor, Kim McGuinness winning the new North East mayoral election, and David Skaith winning the new York & North Yorkshire mayoralty - which includes Mr Sunak's Richmond constituency.

As well as London, the party retained mayoralties including Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and the Liverpool City Region.

The Tories held on to the Tees Valley mayoralty but otherwise suffered a mauling from the electorate, also losing nearly 500 council seats and the Blackpool South by-election.

Labour said the Tories had "failed to level up" the country, pointing to its analysis of Office for National Statistics data showing the average gap in gross domestic product per person between London and other combined authorities in England averaged £29,000 in 2022.

Levelling up was at the heart of former prime minister Boris Johnson's 2019 Conservative manifesto.

Speaking last month, Sir Keir told Sky News it was the "right policy" but lambasted Mr Johnson's "failure" to deliver it, while accusing his successor Mr Sunak of "strangling it at birth".

However, despite criticising the Conservatives for not putting money behind the policy, Sir Keir refused to commit any new funding to local councils, which are straddling an estimated funding gap of £4bn over the next two years.