Elected mayors: To vote or not to vote?

The fast-approaching referendums on directly elected mayors in 10 major UK cities present an opportunity to invigorate local democracy and economic development.

E-mail-sign-up Donate

 

.

Alexandra Jones is the Chief Executive of Centre for Cities

On May 3rd, people in 10 of the biggest cities in England will vote on whether or not to replace their leader and cabinet with an elected mayor. Campaigns for and against elected mayors have generated substantial media coverage over the past few months.

Mayor-Diamond-Joe-QuimbyThe key question voters should be asking is what powers these elected mayors will have. Without understanding more of the detail, it will be difficult for citizens to make an informed decision when faced with their ballot paper.

Centre for Cities has consistently argued in favour of elected mayors: the data snap-shot we published earlier this week quantified the size of the job that elected mayors might take on. No leadership model is perfect, and places such as Greater Manchester demonstrate that different structures for governance can yield equally positive results.

Nonetheless, a wide range of evidence suggests mayors have the potential to kickstart economic growth in their cities.

Mayors can act as ambassadors, representing their city to business and to government. Visible to local communities and businesses, they are held to account through elections by the whole local authority, not just a single ward.

Yet to be genuinely effective, they need clearly defined powers over strategic planning, housing and transport. These are the policies that can make a difference to cities’ economic fortunes. Government should address this as a priority.

 


See also:

Elected mayors offer ‘greater visibility, accountability and coordinative leadership’ 16 Apr 2012

Support grows for mayors as Londoners hail ‘better city’ from experience 11 Apr 2012

Elected mayors: let the referendum campaigns begin 26 Jan 2012


 

There are also questions about the geography over which mayors have influence. A city’s economic footprint often extends far beyond local authority boundaries.

The labour and housing markets of Leeds, for example, are integrated with those of Bradford and Wakefield, while Bristol’s labour market footprint stretches out from Bristol’s local authority as far as Wotton-under-Edge 16 miles north, and Weston-Super-Mare 18 miles south.

In the future, the government should allow cities with the appetite for it to vote for ‘metro’ mayors, covering more than one local authority to give them the maximum opportunities for creating growth within the city region as a whole. This would produce mayors who represent not just the interests of inner cities, but neighbouring suburbs and rural areas too.

So: to vote or not to vote for a mayor?  Mayors are not a panacea for all local-democratic, social and economic ills; cities will make different choices about what is best for them. But Centre for Cities’ research suggests that, in general, mayors could be a good bet.

Given the nature and remit of their job, they have potential to drive forward their cities’ economic agendas, make difficult decisions for growth, and champion their cities to the outside world. In an age of austerity and cuts, effective representation to Westminster and Whitehall is more important than ever.

If the government wants to give mayors the strongest opportunity to make a difference, they should allow cities to vote for a metro mayor if they so wish.  A mayor with decision making powers over the whole city economy has the best chance of seeing the bigger picture, and thus making the right decisions for the benefit of the whole of the local economy.

 


Sign-up to our weekly email • Donate to Left Foot Forward

17 Responses to “Elected mayors: To vote or not to vote?”

  1. Political Planet

    Elected mayors: To vote or not to vote?: The fast-approaching referendums on directly elected mayors in 10 major… //t.co/LFj5UXLq

  2. eleanor

    Elected mayors: To vote or not to vote? //t.co/WeXsRKAb by @CentreforCities’s @AlexJonesCities

  3. Yes to Mayors

    Elected mayors: To vote or not to vote? //t.co/WeXsRKAb by @CentreforCities’s @AlexJonesCities

  4. Alexandra Jones

    Elected mayors: To vote or not to vote? //t.co/WeXsRKAb by @CentreforCities’s @AlexJonesCities

  5. Centre for Cities

    Elected #mayors: which way to vote? //t.co/AuOTE5aF @alexjonescities via @leftfootfwd

  6. Elected Mayor 4 MCR?

    Elected #mayors: which way to vote? //t.co/AuOTE5aF @alexjonescities via @leftfootfwd

  7. Anonymous

    Oh is that what pricing the poor out of using public transport is called.

  8. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Elected mayors: To vote or not to vote? //t.co/5lNRAqXE

  9. Albert Spangler

    “a wide range of evidence suggests mayors have the potential to kickstart economic growth in their cities.”

    …It would be quite nice to see this evidence..

  10. Steph

    Anything that that might keep Frank Field away from Parliament gets my vote.

  11. Shifting Grounds

    The problem with deciding whether you want an elected mayor is – what powers will they actually have? //t.co/0xP20x06 @alexjonescities

  12. Friedrich Hayek

    The problem with deciding whether you want an elected mayor is – what powers will they actually have? //t.co/0xP20x06 @alexjonescities

  13. Anonymous

    Juts another place for failed MP’s and councillors, more wasted money, more jobs for the boys and girls, no thanks

  14. Ben Mitchell

    Elected mayors: To vote or not to vote? //t.co/WeXsRKAb by @CentreforCities’s @AlexJonesCities

  15. Bethan Hutton

    Elected mayor or not? //t.co/Lyc5hKeX I haven't made up my mind yet, but have nightmares of Boris v Ken (lack of) choice in future.

  16. median23

    Like Boris Jokeson, amiable buffoon and defender of the elite? It’s all about the persuasion industry, who gets in. Mind you, this would be a splended opportunity/excuse for Mr Jeremy Scrupulous Impartiality Man of Honour and Substance Self-Serving Cameleonspeak Mend a City Mendacity Hunt, to fade into the background and save Cameron from sounding like an apologist for monomaniac megalomaniac neoliberals worldwide. It’s so obvious now that Hunt and Gove are not real boys, and were made in the same factory.

  17. Will an elected Mayor bring the glory days back to Coventry? | Left Foot Forward

    […] See also: • Elected mayors: To vote or not to vote? 26 Apr […]

Leave a Reply