Elected Mayors: Let the referendum campaigns begin

The government announced yesterday that residents from Bristol to Newcastle, along with nine other English cities, will go to the polls on May 3rd.

 

The government announced yesterday that residents from Bristol in the south up to Newcastle in the north, along with nine other English cities, will go to the polls on May 3rd to decide if they want elected city mayors.

If they vote yes, the elections themselves will take place on November 15th, joining London and Leicester who already have elected mayors.

The 11 cities that will hold referendums are Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield.

Dubbed Super Thursday, the autumn ballot will combine that of the controversial, first ever elected police chiefs for England and Wales, despite public concerns of senior police officers.

With the government depicting elected mayors and police and crime commissioners (PCCs) as providing strong leadership and democratic accountability, others are surprised at adding more layers of government, especially from a Tory-led coalition, with many leading Conservative MPs being known for their belief in ‘small government’.

Paul Smith, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate in the 2005 general election in Bristol West, told Left Foot Forward:

“The election of a mayor has transformed London. The democratic legitimacy of someone elected from the whole adult population has reinvigorated the governance of the City…

“The number of electors in Bristol is 317,000 yet the number who voted for the Leader of Bristol City Council is 1,661. Just 0.5 per cent of the voting population had a say, yet this person governs a whole city.”

Elected mayors could have wide-ranging powers over transport, housing, planning, education and public health. With tussles for power when changing hands somewhat inevitable, the issue is divisive.

In Manchester, for example, most local politicians are against. One argument is that the elected mayor should be for the whole of Greater Manchester, keeping in line with existing governance arrangements, where many major policies are dictated across ten local authorities, at a regional level, rather than simply the city of Manchester itself.

Yet a poll by the Manchester Evening News shows 66 per cent support for an elected mayor. Former leader of Manchester city council Graham Stringer MP is also pro.

Communities and local government minister Greg Clark said yesterday:

“The world’s great cities have mayors who lead for their city on the national and international stage, attracting investment and jobs. We believe that mayors can help English cities achieve their full potential too.

“This May, the people of our cities will have the chance to have their say. Now is the time to start weighing up what a mayor could do for your city.”

City dwellers affected should look out for local discussion events before casting their deciding vote. People in Bristol, for example, can attend a debate with both sides represented for and against a directly elected mayor, in the Conference Hall of Bristol City Council on Wednesday February 22nd from 7-9.

See also:

A call for progressives to back directly-elected mayorsKevin Meagher, August 5th 2011

The government’s misleading claims about the scale of local government cutsSir Robin Wales, February 3rd 2011

Progressives should be supporting Elected Police CommissionersKevin Meagher, July 27th 2010

Directly elected mayors with increased powers will reinvigorate local governanceNirmalee Wanduragala and Nick Hope, January 25th 2010

England needs ‘metro mayors’Dermot Finch, September 21st 2009

23 Responses to “Elected Mayors: Let the referendum campaigns begin”

  1. Anonymous

    A referenda. Woopie. That means each citizen gets to decide on issues and vote on them.

    Er, no. You’re not going to get a say on say, do you want taxes to rise. Oh no.

    You just get to decide if you want another criminal living off your taxes, and dictating what you will or wont’ do.

  2. TruthBeckons

    Elected Mayors: Good or bad? //t.co/fi2WYX02

  3. Duncan Davis

    Elected mayors are a terrible idea and I hope for the sake of the local people in these towns that they vote no!

    On the surface, it seems that allowing the electorate to vote in the leader of their council is democratic. However, mayors have way more power than council leaders – they basically get a veto vote over any issue. This centralisation (and indeed any centralisation) of power is bad for democracy. Voters don’t know how a candidate is going to act once they are elected. There is nothing stopping a mayor from going completely against their election pledges and there will always be new issues that pop up that weren’t even campaigned about. On these occasions the mayor may make decisions to suit themselves.

    Elected mayors are a form of democracy but it is a weak, top down representative democracy. It takes powers out of the hands of councillors, who are much closer, democratically speaking, to the people. People can go to one of their councillors (most people have more than one) if they have an issue but this can be useless if a mayor simply overrules them.

    In Stoke, we got rid of our mayoral system after we had a particularly corrupt and dictatorial mayor called Mark Meredith. Amongst other things, he forced through school closures, academisations and tried to close a popular council swimming pool in collusion with the owner of a large private competitor. We now have a leader and cabinet system which also has significant problems but is required by the Local Government Act 2000.

    In any executive system (which includes mayor and leader-cabinet systems) all councillors are not equal. Councillors who are in the cabinet get paid a higher salary which is a corrupting influence. Also, leaders get to chose who is on the cabinet (although they need to roughly follow the party composition). This means they can bully members into voting their way otherwise they will throw them off the cabinet and the councillors will lose the extra money. It may be more subtle, but this system also centralises power.

    The Tories like to promote themselves as localists but in fact they are centralists – Labour are as bad if not worse. If they were really concerned with democratic localism, they would return councils to the old committee system and give them complete autonomy to make their own budgets. Instead they force austerity upon even well meaning councils. Conservatives like centralised power because there are fewer people they need to corrupt to get their way. It worked with the Labour Party.

  4. Duncan Davis

    RE: @leftfootfwd Elected mayors are a terrible idea and I hope for the sake of the local people in these towns that t… //t.co/Rw9K3rMW

  5. Democratic Society

    Noted: Elected Mayors: Let the referendum campaigns begin //t.co/pnlrC0oQ

  6. Jules

    Noted: Elected Mayors: Let the referendum campaigns begin //t.co/pnlrC0oQ

  7. Karl

    Elected Mayors: Let the referendum campaigns begin: //t.co/UptyWZSQ writes @AmandaRamsay

  8. TheCornishRepublican

    English are cities to be offered elected mayors but what of Cornwall's demand for greater democracy? Find me one… //t.co/gckZgGsB

  9. TheCornishRepublican

    English are cities to be offered elected mayors but what of Cornwall's demand for greater democracy? Find me one… //t.co/88m5fRAs

  10. cornubian

    English are cities to be offered elected mayors but what of Cornwall’s demand for greater democracy? Find me one English city that has produced a petition of 50,000 signatures calling for greater self-determination, that has its own national identity, constitutional position and Celtic language.

  11. TheCornishRepublican

    RE: @leftfootfwd English are cities to be offered elected mayors but what of Cornwall's demand for greater democracy?… //t.co/ZBpBTEAC

  12. Mr. Sensible

    “The number of electors in Bristol is 317,000 yet the number who voted for the Leader of Bristol City Council is 1,661. Just 0.5 per cent of the voting population had a say, yet this person governs a whole city.”

    That’s a somewhat narrow way of looking at it, and it seems to be based on the presidential notion. Currently, people vote for councillors, and the party with the most seats forms the government. I think that works the best, but everyone should vote how they see fit.

  13. Mr. Sensible

    “The number of electors in Bristol is 317,000 yet the number who voted for the Leader of Bristol City Council is 1,661. Just 0.5 per cent of the voting population had a say, yet this person governs a whole city.”

    That’s a somewhat narrow way of looking at it, and it seems to be based on the presidential notion. Currently, people vote for councillors, and the party with the most seats forms the government. I think that works the best, but everyone should vote how they see fit.

  14. Ramsay121

    This article needs to go out to all local newspapers in order to encourage local people to think it all through. It is a very important issue to concerning everyone.

  15. Brianhope354

    If we have to have a mayor in Manchester I hope it’s not some puffed up celebrity type, we need someone with real substance and not a DJ or an entertainer.

  16. Will Manchester say yes to an elected Mayor in May? | Left Foot Forward

    […] also: • Elected Mayors: Let the referendum campaigns begin – Amanda Ramsay, January 26th […]

  17. Will Bristol cross the bridge to an elected Mayor? | Left Foot Forward

    […] Elected Mayors: Let the referendum campaigns begin 26 Jan […]

  18. Will Birmingham say ‘alrite’ to an elected Mayor? | Left Foot Forward

    […] See also: • Elected Mayors: Let the referendum campaigns begin 26 Jan […]

  19. Bristol Mayor

    0.5% of Bristol ppl voted for the current Leader of the Council. All 100% could vote for #bristolmayor //t.co/u0sd1aC7

  20. Tessa Coombes

    0.5% of Bristol ppl voted for the current Leader of the Council. All 100% could vote for #bristolmayor //t.co/u0sd1aC7

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