The concept of large-city mayors endowed with executive powers by the voters to run a large city and also be accountable for delivering key services such as policing and transport may be old-hat in the USA, but it appears to be really catching on here in the UK.
London has been overseen by two elected mayors since the year 2000; the first-ever was former Labour stalwart Ken Livingstone, but the position is now occupied by Tory and former editor of The Spectator magazine, Boris Johnson.
Providing a definite figurehead for the city, the position of London Mayor is certainly high-profile but would a similar concept work in other large UK cities, such as Liverpool, Birmingham or Manchester? To answer that question involves an examination of why a city would choose to have such a mayor in the first place. If it is to take overall responsibility and co-ordinate all other areas of the city infrastructure and future development for the good of the entire city’s residents then the voters of most cities will probably find that palatable. However, if the purpose of appointing such a figurehead is to promote only a single interest group, then success could be very limited.
Ultimately, the question of whether it is right to appoint a mayor is one that should be answered by the local community themselves, perhaps via a referendum. Some voters may like the way it has worked with the US or London models and seek to have such a position in place in their city. Appointment of such high-profile mayors to manage the public sector requirements of a city appears to work if the appointees are strong characters and natural leaders such as Livingstone and latterly, Johnson.
Of course, the mayor is always acutely aware that their tenure can be ended by the very people who voted them in. If the population of the city believes that they are not getting value from the position, then they will turn on them as was witnessed when the incredibly popular Livingstone was ejected at the last election in 2005.
However, one person cannot run an entire city without the aid of competent colleagues and the co-operation of the other government agencies involved. As well as strong leadership their agenda must be agreeable not only to the voters, but also to the service providers. It is far easier to promote change to people who are onboard with your ideas, rather than force it through. But, in some cases it is the latter that is required and that is why a strong civic leader could be the way forward for a city in need of direction.
Victoria Cochrane writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client of said agency. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.