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Directly elected mayors: where from here?

March 13, 2009

Controversy surrounds 2 of the 12, soon to be 11 elected mayors – a fair proportion of the overall total – so where do we go from here?

Well, the main political parties can’t seem to make their minds up. The Government’s proposals for a new wave of directly elected mayors were left to one side in the Queen’s Speech. In their recent green paper the Conservatives set out plans for mayors in our twelve biggest cities, but we should ask how, if at all, the model complements proposals for elected commissioners with control over the one thing, perhaps with the current exception of the economy, which gets the electorate excited – crime?

Arguments about the slant of press coverage of children’s services and politicians are vital. For many, the media is the prism through which they view government in all its forms, and initiatives like the LGA’s Local Democracy campaign are undoubtedly effective in raising awareness – in this case young peoples’ awareness – of what councils do.

However, just as important is the debate we still need about the public re-engage in a meaningful manner with the bodies and politicians serving them as trust declines. Received wisdom is that strong, accountable democracy as embodied by the directly elected mayor model leads to strong services and benefit for communities. Today, some will be arguing that this model of civic leadership is in danger of sinking without trace in the very places that need it most.

To finish, how will Hazel Blears’ announcement of financial support for more young mayors affect the debate?

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