Combined authorities are a legal structure that may be set up by local authorities in England. They can be set up with or without a directly-elected mayor. The relevant legislation is the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 and the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016.

Combined authorities may be set up by two or more local authorities. They may take on statutory functions transferred to them by an Order made by the Secretary of State, plus any functions that the constituent authorities agree to share.

The first combined authority to be established was the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, in 2011. Four additional combined authorities were established in 2014 (North-East, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region, West Yorkshire).

During 2014-16, the Government negotiated ‘devolution deals’ with several areas. These were mostly delivered via the creation of mayoral combined authorities, in some cases building on the existing combined authority structures. The Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 allowed combined authorities to establish elected mayoralties. As of 2019, there are ten combined authorities in England, eight of which have directly-elected mayors.

There are no legal provisions for combined authorities to be created in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, or in London. The Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority are established by separate legislation (see the Library briefing paper The Greater London Authority).

Combined authorities both with and without mayors have been established via Orders under the 2009 and 2016 Acts, specifying the functions, powers and constitutional structures for each individual authority. A number of further Orders have specified powers or functions that are applied to all combined authorities.

Further details on the background to, and content of, devolution deals can be found in the Library briefing paper Devolution to local government in England.


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