Elected in 2011 and 2012 respectively, George Ferguson (Bristol) and Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester) have been working hard to show what mayors can do for our cities. At a recent event hosted at the Institute for Government, Tom Gash heard them raise two questions that any government after May 2015 will have to answer. Should we have more mayors? And should they have more powers?
Elected mayors were first established in England following the election of the Mayor of London in 2000. Later that year the Local Government Act paved the way for votes to set up mayors in a number of other local authorities. Eleven more mayors had been introduced by 2002.
Greater Manchester will become the next urban area in the UK to directly elect a mayor, following Bristol who first elected a mayor in 2012. One of the frustrations in the debate around directly elected mayors, however, is the lack of empirical evidence around which to evaluate their impact. Here, David Sweeting presents some early analysis of data from both before and after the introduction of the mayoral system in Bristol.
Recently George Osborne announced the creation of a ‘metro-mayor’ for Greater Manchester. In doing so he has joined a long line of heavyweight politicians who have endorsed the idea of directly elected mayors as at least part of the solution to issues in urban governance in English cities. From as far back as Michael Heseltine in the early 1990s, via Tony Blair, and through David Cameron the idea of a single figure to govern our Continue reading →
by David Sweeting, Associate Editor of Policy & Politics
In a development that I couldn’t have scripted better had I been able to draft the legislation and push it through the Houses of Parliament myself, Bristol adopted a directly elected mayor in 2012. I have a long-held interest in directly elected mayors in the UK, and urban political leadership more generally. Since I arrived in Bristol in 1998 to work on an ESRC project on urban political leadership, the topic of leadership in Bristol has been a recurring one. Bristol’s abrasive politics has meant that many council leaders’ terms in office were short-lived, despite their abilities as leaders. Continue reading →
It is well over a year since the first directly elected mayor of Bristol took office. While Bristol is not the only place in the country to have such a mayor, it was the only one of ten cities that said yes to a mayor in referendums held in May 2012. Despite various inducements from central government in the form of looking favourably at city deals, and also the prospect of a mayors’ cabinet with the PM himself, Bristolians were the only citizens in the country at that time to go for the option of replacing a traditional council leader with what many see as an American style figure at the head of city government. So, as the idea of Directly Elected Mayors moves back up the agenda, it seems appropriate to ask, what difference does having an elected mayor make? Continue reading →
The Policy & Politics Blog features debates from recent issues. An extract is below, then please click on the link at the end to download the full article. Policy & Politics is the leading journal in the field of public policy with an enviable reputation for publishing peer-reviewed papers of the highest quality .
Policy & Politics Debates, October 2012
In May 2012, ten of England’s major urban local authorities held referendums on moving to a model of governance focused on a directly elected mayor. Only one city – Bristol – voted in favour. Elsewhere the proposal was rejected relatively decisively, albeit with a generally low voter turnout.
David Cameron’s coalition government has emphasised large urban areas as drivers of economic growth. It has championed elected mayors as the mechanism for delivering the leadership necessary to capitalise on the potential of our cities. The outcome of the referendum therefore represents a significant setback.
May’s referendums are only the latest instalment in this saga. The leitmotif is central government enthusiasm finding limited resonance at local level. Given that we have had several unsuccessful attempts to (re)invigorate the idea of elected mayors for England, is it now time to put the idea to bed?