WARRINGTON Borough Council (WBC) says it is ‘open minded’ about the prospect of having an elected mayor as part of a future devolution deal.

WBC’s Labour group voted for the town to team up with Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire East Council in a devolution deal – instead of the Liverpool City Region – in January 2017.

As previously reported, if arrangements are thrashed out, the move would see the Government delegate major powers to the three authorities.

It could deliver funds of at least £30 million a year for a decade, although it may have the potential to secure this amount of cash for close to 25 years.

As recently reported, in an interview with the Financial Times, Robert Jenrick – before he was sacked as secretary of state for housing, communities and local government – pledged to ‘widen and deepen’ devolution even if Whitehall would not impose mayors on any region that was opposed.

“We would like to encourage parts of the country that want to come forward to do devolution deals with us,” he said.

He said there was ‘interest’ in creating new mayoralties in North Yorkshire, Cumbria and the East Riding of Yorkshire, but more rural parts of England may be better suited to ‘county deals’, where the notion of a directly elected mayor ‘feels more alien’.

Asked whether Warrington is still hoping for a devolution deal with the two Cheshire councils, WBC chief executive Steven Broomhead said: “We are engaging in very early stage discussions with Government to better understand what offer may be available as a result of a county deal.”

Mr Broomhead confirmed Warrington is ‘open minded’ at this stage over whether it hopes to have an elected mayor as part of the devolution deal.

He added: “If a deal is to be progressed, we will ensure that it is the right one for Warrington.”

Cllr Bob Barr, leader of Warrington’s Liberal Democrats, has issued a statement on the matter.

He said: “The Liberal Democrat group welcomes the opening of discussions on a devolution deal with central Government which would involve the Cheshire and Warrington authorities working more closely together.

“Whether a devolution deal and an elected executive mayor will benefit Warrington needs to be proven.

“We need to know the size of the prize for such a deal, but also consider the penalty that Warrington may have to pay if it doesn’t participate.

“This is a long-term decision for Warrington and requires the reconvening of an all-party working group to consider the options as was the case during previous devolution negotiations.”

As announced by the Government in July, new county deals will aim to take devolution beyond the largest cities, offering the rest of England the same powers metro mayors have gained over things like transport, skills and economic support.

County deals will be ‘bespoke’ to the needs of individual places, bringing decisions closer to people and places, potentially allowing more places to benefit from strong, high profile local champions.

They will also give places the tools they need to pilot new ideas, create jobs, drive growth and improve public services.