It is not for the Commission to say whether the voters of any or all cities facing a referendum on 3rd May 2012 should vote for or against the directly elected mayor model. There are other successful models of leadership, for example the Combined Authority in Manchester, and voters will need to consider a range of options before making their decision about whether to vote for an elected mayor.
This report is based on an assumption that some cities will choose the mayoral model and therefore there is a need to consider how directly elected mayors might work in practice following the referenda. It aims to give national and local politicians, policy makers and advisers, other stakeholders as well as the electorate access to a wide range of evidence to inform their views and decisions.
As well as contributing to the debate in the lead up to the referenda, the Commission seeks to assist stakeholders of cities that choose the directly elected mayor model ahead of elections on 15th November 2012 and support those Mayors who come into office.
‘Power’ and ‘Powers’
1) The difference between ‘powers’ and ‘power’ is critical in discussing elected mayors.
2) Whilst the debate about clarity over which powers (and budgets) Whitehall will hand to cities with directly elected mayors will continue, it is also important to recognise the soft and invisible power that has often been accumulated by elected mayors that sits outside their statutory remits has been considerable. In many cases, it has led to the granting of more powers.
3) Some of the most successful mayoral models have evolved gradually over time where success has been demonstrated and therefore greater powers have been granted.
4) The wider the powers, the greater the power. There is therefore a need for clarity from candidates before election as to what powers they would seek to provide for an even stronger mandate in discussions with Westminster and Whitehall post-election.
5) Government has indicated that new mayors will be able to ask for powers they include in their campaign manifestos. There should also be a mechanism to review the ‘suite of powers’ once in office to allow further evolution of the mayor’s role in the medium term, ie. in advance of the next four-year election cycle.
6) Welfare, education/skills and social care/health will all be critical in the future running of cities, as well as economic development, planning and transport. Extending the mayoral powers and influence in these areas will require further and sophisticated conversations with central government.
7) The direct nature of election gives ‘power’. Mayors should examine the totality of the public spend in a place and hold bodies over which they do not have budgetary control to public account in a wider sense, eg. the combined impact of social care, recidivism amongst low level offenders, impact of welfare and work and training. The development of Community Budgets from existing pilots under the auspices of elected mayors may be worthy of detailed consideration.
8) The areas people identify with are not bounded necessarily by city council boundaries. Mayors are more likely to be effective, both in supporting the economy and making effective decisions for local citizens, if they are responsible for functioning economic areas. The Commission’s research indicates: “there is no point in electing a mayor whose remit does not cover the necessarily boundary spanning regions that could foster economic growth – the so-called Metro-Mayor.” Government should return to considering extending to city region/metro mayors where this is appropriate for local areas at the earliest opportunity.
9) In the short to medium term, there is a need to develop the basis for how elected mayors would relate to other parts of the public framework, notably but not exclusively Police and Crime Commissioners and Local Enterprise Partnerships. There will need to be support from Government in terms of institutional frameworks but much will rely on office holders developing effective working relationships.
10) The cities chosen for the referenda have their own distinct histories. These have shaped the possibilities that now exist for each area and the mayor would need to connect to this in order to connect with local people. Mayors will be powerful if they can tell a strong story on behalf of their place that creates a sense of shared endeavour amongst their communities and is attractive to external audiences including central government and inward investors. Indeed, central government could be considered one of the largest inward investors in an area governed by a mayor.
11) The mayor’s role would be built around three things:
a) identity – who is the ‘we’ and what are ‘we’ really about here, promoting who the city is and what it offers;
b) relationships – who do we connect to, within our boundaries and beyond, and how do we connect with them, establishing strong relationships within the city boundaries and beyond, enabling people to communicate better and do business better; and
c) information – what’s really going on here and how do people get to know, finding out what is happening in the city and ensuring the relevant people have access to that information.
Structures and Management
12) A mayor simply sitting upon existing full council, cabinet and management structures is likely to be limited in their effectiveness.
13) Mayors need to be able to appoint cabinet members and advisers – open to a full scrutiny and overview process – that would together create an effective leadership team with the right balance of skill, knowledge and wisdom.
14) Setting levels of remuneration for mayors and their principal officers and advisers can absorb significant time and political capital. Where possible, developing models and approaches to remuneration should be explored at the earliest opportunity.
15) Mayors, whether elected through traditional political party arrangements or as an Independent, need to act in the best interests of their city, to appoint the best talent available and to work outside of traditional party political confines in order to do a more effective job.
16) Most successful mayors are more focussed on place than party. They are likely to need to spend less time in handling party management, with more room for strong, visible and transparent leadership.
17) Notwithstanding structures, mayors need to establish appropriate relationships around the city, with regional infrastructure and government and with businesses both locally, nationally and internationally. There is not a single right answer; they will be driven by local circumstance and history.
18) The relationship between mayor and full council needs to be constructed so the mayor is visibly held to account, yet their mandate should not be undermined by a body which has been separately elected.
19) The election of mayors could provide an opportunity to considerably strengthen the existing scrutiny and overview process, with councillors more focussed on delivering visible and effective scrutiny and less constrained by the party discipline of the local party leader.
20) Elected mayors focussed on strategic leadership may benefit from encouraging ward councillors to have a greater say in the delivery of council services in their areas and ensure the voice of citizens is represented to the mayor.
21) Further research, commissioned by Government, would be helpful in sharing best practice and ensuring localism reaches as far as possible.
22) There needs to be an appropriate recall process which enables the removal of an elected mayor in office in extremis. The report includes the example from Japan of the Local Autonomy Law with a system of Mutually Assured Destruction involving both local government leader and local assembly.
23) Transition plans prepared by officers under the outgoing structure and administration should not constrain the incoming administration in detail or culture. Induction should be planned to provide basic elements of information on the constitution, finance and existing organisation but not in such a way that it imposes non-statutory processes on new mayors. Wherever possible, elected mayors should be encouraged and empowered to deliver innovation in the administration of city leadership.
24) The transition needs to be drawn up in consultation with official candidates, where possible, to enable as smooth a transition and induction as possible.
25) There needs to be greater clarity over the role of Chief Executives in local authorities and the freedom mayors will have to change both principal officer roles and their postholders. Whilst employment rights will need to be honoured, new elected mayors are likely to require a degree of freedom.
26) Mayors might benefit from independent support through this process.
27) If identity, information and relationships are critical, consideration must be given as to how the mayor’s office will work in respect of providing governance and leadership of the Council. Effective mayors usually act as city mayors rather than council mayors. The location and working arrangements for the mayor’s office are likely to be far more important than simply taking possession of the council leader’s office.
Making a Difference
28) Given the constraints of existing council boundaries, mayors will make little difference if they do not actively seek to go beyond the familiar. This will mean negotiating new arrangements locally and nationally, particularly around transport, skills, welfare, social care and criminal justice as well as economic development and infrastructure.
29) Savings from realising the benefits of a more holistic approach to the public spend in our large cities could amount to billions of pounds. For this reason they must not be shy of using their mandate across the range of public and private bodies in a place to surface contradictions and poor practice.
Cost Benefit and Data
30) The most significant challenge for the Commission was to identify data sets that could empirically answer the question: what difference do elected mayors make to the strategic leadership of cities?
31) The Commission hopes to undertake further work in this area and will see to work with Government and other stakeholders to design a process to formulate appropriate measurements and indicators of effectiveness and impact.
32) However, we believe a commitment to open data and general transparency will be helpful in assessing the impact of elected mayors.
33) The introduction of elected mayors should be accompanied by an increased level of innovation and experimentation in city leadership and local government.
34) Effective mayors and their offices should at least be cost neutral in net terms over their period of office.