Last night George Ferguson gave his first Mayoral State of the City address in the Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building. This launched both the Mayor’s Vision for Bristol and the consultation on the local authority budget.
Following the Mayor’s presentation there were brief responses from Alexandra Jones from Centre for Cities, Tony Travers from LSE London, and me. We only had five minutes each. Below is the text to accompany my presentation. Delivery didn’t quite match the text because I was editing down to 5 minutes. You can listen to the whole event here for the next few days. As usual, I win the “who can talk the fastest” competition.
We are now marking the first anniversary of our first mayoral election. The occasion is provoking plenty of reflection. Not just locally, but also nationally and internationally.
When the city voted for a mayor in 2012 it was voting for a leader with greater visibility. It is fair to say that we have got one. George is much more high profile – in person, in the media, on Twitter – than previous Council Leaders. George may not yet have the name recognition of Boris … or Madonna … but he’s on the way. If electing a Mayor was primarily about moving to the era of city leader as celebrity then that is a task we can mark as largely complete.
But visibility was never an end in itself. It was a component of reconnecting city leadership with the people. It had the aim of increasing engagement with local politics and revitalising local democracy. It spoke of aspirations for more focused and consistent leadership. It spoke of breaking away from the deadlock and instability that were perceived to afflict city leadership under previous governance models.
Having voted to move to the elected mayor model there is now limited scope for changing to a different model of local government. So there is little point rehearsing old debates about whether it was the right decision. Now is the time to take stock of whether we are moving in the expected direction. [Read more...]