directly elected mayor is different to one that is elected by local council and whose main obligation is for ceremonial duties. A directly elected mayor is chosen by the public and is able to make decisions. But what powers and decisions will a directly elected mayor actually be able to make?
We have all been told that a directly elected mayor will be responsible for the day to day running of our local services, will provide political leadership for the community and council and carry out local authority’s policy. But what policies? What services? And how will the candidates policies come in to play if chosen?
The directly elected mayor will have a budget of £3.5billion and will lead the city council in taking control of other public services with the potential to oversee health trusts, transport or economic development; however this is all that we are told.
The government have been highly criticised for not specifying the powers that a directly elected mayor will have. They expect the public to make a choice on whether to vote ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ in the May referendum without being properly informed of what power a directly elected mayor will hold over our community and what that impressive budget will be spent on.
Professor Keith Grint, Professor of Public Leadership and Management at Warwick Business School, notes:
“….the absence of powers undermines the point of the local engagement and the mayoral alternative is perceived by some to be aimed at addressing this very issue.”
Professor Grint also writes:
“Directly elected mayors offer the possibility of greater visibility, accountability and co-ordinative leadership as well as re-enchanting the body politic, and much of this derives from their relative independence from party discipline through their direct mandate and through their four year term.”
“In some cities an elected mayor may not be necessary because they have already constructed a significant identity and are vigorously and strategically led…..”
Many give ideas on what these powers will be, and potential Birmingham candidates talk of implementing policies and identifying agendas that promote job growth and opportunities for our youth, uniting communities and regeneration schemes, Gisela Stuart says
“We used to be the city of a thousand trades, we need to become the city of a thousand skills. That young population, something that other cities envy us for, we need to find jobs for them”
These agendas are all well and good but we need to be brought into the light by the government. They need to specify the role of mayor that we are meant to take into consideration so that we as a public can make an informed decision, not one that we have to guess at to improve our community.
By Elizabeth Johnson
Picture: Warwick Business School