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Monday, August 04, 2008

One mayor to rule them all

The proposal by John Osmond of the Institute of Welsh Affairs that we should have a directly-elected mayor to run the South Wales Valleys has a lot to commend it, but only if you are into messianic leadership figures and the erosion of accountable and transparent democracy.

Don't we have enough gimmicks in local government, without adding another one? And what role is envisaged for the Welsh Assembly Government in this? They are after all the elected and accountable body responsible for regenerating and energising valley communities.

It may be argued that the Welsh Government is failing in this role but there is no indication that an elected figurehead would fare any better. The key to this whole debate is the resources and the powers available to the responsible body, not who delivers on the necessary action.

Mr. Osmond argues that the creation of a Mayor could improve democratic engagement. Yet when you look at the raw figures there is little difference in the turnout of voters who elected Boris Johnson in London and those who voted in new local authorities in Wales this May. The turnout in the London Mayor elections was 45.33% whereas 44% of eligible voters came out to elect Wales' 22 Unitary Authorities.

The reality is that when you have elected Mayors of whatever political persuasion community involvement and democratic scrutiny is diminished. I suspect also that the weight of expectation borne by any directly elected Mayor for the valleys would doom him or her to failure.

My main objection to the whole silly season piece however is the way that the Western Mail starts speculating on who might be Mayor. The moment you start to design a job around particular individuals is the time you know that we are on the slippery slope to disappointment.

It is up to the voters to decide who should do a job like this not the media. I would hope that if it were to come about the job description would be drawn up on the basis of what needs to be done not according to the size of the ego envisaged to do it.
I quite agree, entirely unnecessary, particularly in a system where (despite your gallant efforts) we still don't have PR for local government.

Mind you, bad as bandying around candidates names is, it's rather hilarious that the only name they could come up with for Plaid was Dafydd Wigley; I should think Leanne Wood is spitting feathers at that little snub...
Although I support directly elected Mayors in local government I had to check the date when I read this story. Don't they realise that in the original Act reorganising local government in the 1990s Merthyr was placed with Blaenau Gwent until both areas were separated at the Committee stage because of the uproar cause by the suggestion. The idea that one person can also change the valleys is frankly laughable.Ken Livingstone hasn't changed london as anyone who reads the Evening Standard will realise.There are parts of London worse off than Metheyr. All the problems of the Valleys of South Wales would be solved if over the past 50 years an attempt had been made to create a society which would attract well paid skilled employment. Instead what has happened as usual in Wales is we either produce a committee, hold a conference or write another report to gather dust on the shelves of some university library. Again this conference said absolutely nothing new with the result that the press has highlighted the crazy idea of an elected Mayor across a number of local authorities. To do this since the Assembly hasn't got the powers call a referendum would I assume need an Act of the UK Parliament. Beam me up Scottie.
I approve this message:

There's a report in today's press that Ken Livingston's ex-colleagues are about to receive 1.5 millionish smackaroos for no other good reason than its tax payers money so 'it don't matter'.
"...as anyone who reads the Evening Standard will realise."

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