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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The myth of the elected Mayor

This morning's Western Mail contains a substantial article detailing the views of Swansea-born Michael Heseltine that a new wave of directly elected Mayors would stop a new wave of riots.

Mr. Heseltine believes that these Mayors will provide leadership to drive through change. Although I agree with him on the need to better empower local Councils to deal with problems in their area, I am on the same side as Plaid Cymru Arfon MP Hywel Williams, who opposes the idea of transferring power into one person’s hands without checks and balances.

The idea of one individual riding to the rescue of an area on a white charger is a romantic notion not borne out by the facts. From what I can see, apart from a few exceptions an elected Mayor has no more beneficial impact on a community than a competent Council Leader elected in the standard way.

As for the riots, we should not forget that one of the worst hit areas was London and they have an elected Mayor!
Some elected mayors have been successful because the people elected have been determined individuals with some sort of leadership quality and some vision. I am sure they would have been as succesful if they were council leaders, just as some council leaders that demonstrate leadership and vision have also been successful.

The rest have been as mediocre as a great number of council leaders.
I think your wrong on this one. If adopted, it might not interest people immediately, but I think an elected Mayoralty has the potential to re-empower local people because they are certainly not empowered by local government in Wales at the moment.
But directly elected Mayors are usually results driven because if they don't do what the electorate wants they get tossed out at the next Mayoral election.

As to checks and balances, of course there are checks and balances: the people decide if the Mayor should stay or go based on results.

There are other checks and balances: police powers should the Mayor get sticky fingers in the cookie jar.

When politicians at city level can't get along, a powerful Mayor can relieve the log-jam and get things done. cw
Thing is Peter elected Mayors who are fecken useless can always get to be non-elected next time around which is a much better situation than non-elected council chief executives calling the shots in Council Chambers.
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