It’s believed by some that Mayors give local citizens a powerful local leader and figurehead for municipal government, better deliver local economic growth, boost local democratic engagement and enhance the prestige of a city.
The Localism Bill being introduced to Parliament this afternoon will give 12 English cities the right to have a directly elected Mayor. These Mayors will be elected for four year terms and are promised the status and power to make their city a success.
If the Bill gains Royal Assent, the Government will make an Order, whereby the Council Leaders in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield will become shadow Mayors, and will be given the powers available to existing council Mayors.
There will be Mayoral Referenda on local Election Day in May 2012 and if that vote goes in favour of having a Mayor there will be an election for one held on local Election Day in May 2013.
Nottingham’s Mayor would be elected to represent just the 290,00 City of Nottingham residents not all 630,000 people who call Nottingham home because when local government was last re-organised in the 90s the opportunity to create whole-conurbation governance arrangements was not taken.
If the supporters of Mayors are right as to their impact, and Nottingham ends up with one, that powerful leader and figurehead would surely be expected by many to speak for the whole of Nottingham. All of Nottingham would expect to enjoy any increased economic growth. And all who live in Nottingham would bask in an enhanced prestige for the city.
But a ‘boost in local democratic engagement’? Not if you call Nottingham home but live in West Bridgford or Arnold, Beeston or Carlton, because whatever you think of the merits of a Mayor you’ll have no part in deciding whether to have one and then no part in choosing who will not represent you.