The Warwick Commission has warned that the Government’s drive to encourage cities to adopt elected mayors cannot provide a ‘one-size-fits-all solution’.
The Warwick Commission on Elected Mayors and City Leadership also supports calls for mayors to have a formal remit that extends beyond the city boundaries which are currently being proposed in referenda in ten core English cities, including Coventry and Birmingham.
The Commission was launched last year to investigate the track records and experiences of elected mayors in the UK and around the world. The study centres on the question: "What is the role of elected mayors in providing strategic leadership to cities?"
Warwick’s research team interviewed 42 mayors, staff and senior council figures in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US in what is believed to be the widest ranging international comparative research exercise, at least in relatively similar political systems in the 'Anglosphere'. It draws on a range of existing evidence as well as a thorough analysis of how the history of local government has brought the question of elected mayors to the forefront now.
In the summary report for the Commission, research director Professor Keith Grint, Professor of Public Leadership and Management at Warwick Business School, 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.
However, he also says:
In some cities an elected mayor may not be necessary because they have already constructed a significant identity and are vigorously and strategically led…..
Voters in ten English cities – Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Wakefield, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield Newcastle, Nottingham and Coventry – face the decision about the form of leadership for their council. Leicester already has an elected city mayor, whilst Liverpool will elect its first on 3 May 2012.
Much of the current debate around elected mayors centres on the range of powers they will or will not be given, with the Government being criticised for not specifying exactly what powers new mayors will attain.
The Commission is chaired by Professor Wyn Grant, Professor of Politics in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Warwick.