confronted by local employers for whom this is a major priority.
The mayoral model excludes education, devolves skills and training
only to higher education students and includes only minimum
experimental projects in the field of employment administration.
These omissions shut off any feeling of responsibility for local
involvement in addressing the issues and finding solutions.
Tomorrow’s problems are already being created in the failing schools,
in companies that don’t train but rely on their ability to poach the
skilled staff they need from companies that do. World competitive
standards demand zero tolerance of low performance. Too little
responsibility for driving improvements is in local hands. There is a
universal appetite among the mayors to convert these local problems
into local responsibilities.
In inviting the mayors to devise local industrial policies, the
government opened the door to another essential but controversial
field of policy – the provision of private and social housing. The
mayoral model includes no formal responsibility. Individual mayors
have found ways to attract some additional funding or have used
their influence to remove obstacles. There are other similar gaps in
the formal definition of mayoral powers, but once education, training
and housing are included as inescapable ingredients of any industrial
strategy, involvement in these issues leads directly to some of the
more intractable social issues of our time. There is no universal view
among the mayors as to how far they should move beyond the strict
economic issues into the associated problems of social provision and
care. Some want to concentrate on delivering economic benefits,
while others believe a wider involvement unavoidable at least, and
desirable at best.
There is a legitimate dilemma and possibly a difference of political
approach. At the heart of the matter is this issue: How can you argue
for a mayoral role in tackling failing schools without involving
them in the social complexity of excluded children? Should solutions
and the institutions often necessary simply be left to each borough,
or should conurbation-wide institutions offer specialist services of a
quality more akin to the sophisticated and technologically advanced