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Gordon Brown should consider introducing more elected mayors to solve the current constitutional imbalance in the UK according to two leading think tanks. In an article published today, the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) and the New Local Government Network (NLGN) have called for more directly elected mayors with powers over local police, transport and health services.
There are currently 13 elected mayors in the UK, including the Mayor of London. The article argues that more mayors would help to spearhead a new era of devolution, offering visible and accountable leadership. They also speculate that areas could receive additional devolved powers if they choose a mayoral model. The article urges Ministers to use the forthcoming Empowerment White Paper to push forward new provisions for elected mayors.
The article, written by Chris Leslie, Director of NLGN and Guy Lodge, Senior Research Fellow, Democracy and Power, ippr and part of a new collection of essays, Directly
Elected, Direct Results, argues that more elected mayors could represent a
powerful indication from the Government that they are serious about devolving power to the English regions. This in turn would help to allay a perceived constitutional imbalance in the UK, whereby Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have received greater decentralisation, whereas England has not.
The authors argue:
“By presenting Mayors as a decentralising measure, Gordon Brown would finally have a substantive policy response to the English Question, which has arisen as a result of (asymmetric) devolution to Scotland and Wales. Mayors might not answer the West Lothian Question – a reference to the ability of Scottish MPs to vote on English matters – but by enabling England to be administered in a far less centralised fashion they would significantly improve the way England is governed, something which is likely to be of greater concern to the public”.
The article is published on the same day that an NLGN/MORI poll showed public support for the elected mayor model. The survey found that 38% of people support the idea of a directly elected mayor for their council, with 29% opposing it. Support was stronger when asked whether major cities in the UK should have elected mayors, with 40% in agreement against 16% against. In a worrying indictment of the lack of viable local leadership the survey also found that 71% of people couldn’t name their local council leader.
Also writing in the collection, Secretary of State for Communities, Hazel Blears MP writes that she has been “personally impressed” with local Mayors and argues that “local Mayors offer a form of leadership that is clear accountable and visible. Mayors can balance competing priorities and take tough decisions in the community’s wider interests”.
Other contributors to the collection include Lucy de Groot and Judi Billing from IDeA; Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham; Stuart Drummond, Mayor of Hartlepool; Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham; Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney and Tony Eggington, Mayor of Mansfield.