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

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