Policy Unpacked #1 – Mad about mayors

Policy Unpacked logoIn 2012 Elected mayors were very much on the political agenda in England. But after the largely negative outcome of last year’s referendums there was a debate over whether mayors are now off the agenda again. However, in 2013 the debate about mayoral governance seems to be as vibrant as ever.

In this podcast I discuss the debate over Elected mayors with my colleague David Sweeting. We touch on the debate at local, national and internal level. (Running time: 28′ 30″) [Read more…]

Towards a global parliament of mayors?

if-mayors-ruled-the-world-198x300How should a world characterised by increasingly complex interdependence be governed? If most of the major challenges we face have no respect for the artificial borders marking out nation states, how can we identify and deliver effective solutions?

The answer Benjamin Barber offered in his stimulating presentation at the Bristol Festival of Ideas on Monday night is that we need to look to cities. More specifically, we need to look to mayors. His case is in part rooted in the fact of an increasingly urban future. But it is also based upon the characteristics he identifies as distinctive to mayoral governance. This is an argument developed at greater length in his new book If mayors ruled the world: Dysfunctional nations, rising cities (Yale University Press).

Barber starts from the premise that we can no longer look to the nation state to find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. [Read more…]

On local governance and elected mayors

On Friday we published a report on the prospects for an elected mayor in Bristol. It is the first report from the Bristol Civic Leadership Project. The prospects report was based primarily on views collected from around Bristol prior to the mayoral election in November. It drew on the respondents to the Citizens’ Panel, a survey of civic leaders, and workshop discussions with stakeholders. The aim of the report was to set out a baseline of information on people’s expectations for the arrival of mayoral governance and, where possible, on the back of that evidence to draw some lessons about avoiding pitfalls associated with changing governance. It aimed to do no more nor less than that.

309064910_68b0c541deThe broad message of the report is that many people were not hugely positive about the performance of the city council under the Leader and Cabinet governance model used prior to the move to an elected mayor. Many were therefore positive about the prospects of the move to a mayor – they were expecting the governance change to have a positive impact on the governance of the city and on the city itself.

The main group who took a different stance were city councillors. Councillors tended to be more likely to be positive about the (then) existing model, and correspondingly more sceptical about the benefits of the arrival of an elected mayor.

I noticed that there was a bit of negative comment about this report on Twitter on Saturday. I thought it would be worth reflecting on some of that comment. [Read more…]

The Localism Act – over to you

[Originally posted at Liberal Democrat Voice, 13/02/12]

Last Wednesday the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) collaborated with Bristol City Council to run a major one-day conference on the Localism Act, which is now rapidly moving towards implementation. The audience comprised primarily local authority elected members and senior officers. The conference was kicked off by Barbara Janke, the Liberal Democrat Leader of Bristol City Council. The day’s discussions were bookended by wide ranging presentations from Westminster Liberal Democrat politicians: Lord Shipley in the morning and Andrew Stunell, our man at the Ministry, in the afternoon.

The Localism Act is huge – both physically and in the range of topics it addresses. [Read more…]

Should Bristol have an elected Mayor?

Early next year we will be debating the biggest question facing local democracy in our area. If Bristolians vote for a mayor in May 2012 it will surely be the most profound change in local government since the county of Avon was abolished when I was a young lad.

The Centre for Public Engagement at the University of Bristol, the RSA, the Bristol Festival of Ideas, and the Bristol Branch of the Institute of Directors have come together to organise a public event to explore the issues.

So why not come along and join me, Chris Searle and a number of distinguished speakers at the Council House on 22nd February.

You can find more information, and find out how to reserve a place, by visiting the Centre for Public Engagement.

Image: © Web Buttons Inc – Fotolia.com


Has local democracy passed its Selby date?

It appears that Selby District Council has restructured its whole organisation into a small group of commissioners – a core group of 14 staff – and a multifunctional provider organisation – Access Selby. We move a step nearer to realising Nicholas Ridley’s vision of the Enabling Authority. We’re taking the idea of the firm as a nexus of contracts to its illogical conclusion.

All we need now is for Access Selby to receive an offer it can’t refuse from an external commercial body and we’re there. As and when that happens, it would be a reasonable bet that the commercial body is going to be one of the large multinational public service contractors.

In the BBC news reports discussing this item today a question of democracy was posed. Doesn’t the separation of commissioning from provision in this way undermine the very idea of a locally-elected body providing services in response to the wishes of the local electorate? [Read more…]