Saturday, 28 April 2012

Do you want an elected mayor?

Mayoral referenda are due to be held on 3 May in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield to determine whether or not to introduce directly-elected mayors.

Do I want an elected mayor? Before I start, I should probably declare that I don't know! I haven't decided which way to vote on Thursday. I'm hoping that by writing this post, I will come to a conclusion.

How does it work now?

At the moment, each ward (area) elects a councillor (or councillors, depending on the size of your area) to represent the interests of their ward on their local council cabinet. You vote for these people.

The councillors you have voted for then choose a leader of the council. This will be one of the councillors from the majority party.

This is exactly how it works on a national level too. This is how the Prime Minister is chosen. You vote for an MP to represent you, then they get to vote for the party leader.

Your city will also have a Lord Mayor, this is a ceremonial position rather than a political, decision making position.

How would it work if we had an elected mayor?

You would continue to vote for local councillors to represent you, however these councillors would not get to choose the leader. Instead, you would have an additional vote to elect a mayor to lead the council in  a political context.

The role of the ceremonial Lord Mayor would still remain.

Would the change be a good thing?



  1. I have seen lots of arguments speculating about the additional costs of an elected mayor - large salaries, the ability to employ unelected deputies on large salaries, foreign travel expenses etc.
  2. My main concern is about a lack of cohesiveness and efficiency. There are currently no Conservative councillors in Sheffield (Labour 50, Lib Dem 32, Green 2), how could the council be led effectively by a member of an opposing party?
  3. I am also worried about one person having to much power. The current system is fair and effective with every councillor getting an equal vote and chance to debate issues, regardless of party. I would not want the role of my local councillor to be diminished.
  4. With power concentrated into one individual, it is easier for them to be lobbied and influenced by vested interests.
  5. My final concern is about their accountability. Once voted in, an elected mayor is there for four years. If you are unhappy with them or they prove to be incompetent, they cannot be removed. You could vote an incompetent councillor out much sooner.


  1. People are feeling increasingly disengaged from politics and political processes. Being able to directly elect a mayor may help the electorate feel empowered.
  2. A 'face' or 'personality' could potentially help give weight to issues locally and nationally.
  3. Electing a mayor increases the chance of an independent leader at the head of the council, which can get rid of the 'party politics' in decision making.
  4. Having one person as a full-time leader for four years gives longer term direction for the council and greater stability. Currently, the leading party could change on a yearly basis.

What will the ballot paper ask?

The question that will be asked has been set by central government:

How would you like [name of city] to be run?

  1. By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors. This is how the council is run now.
  2. By a mayor who is elected by voters. This would be a change from how the council is run now.

Have I decided yet?


I welcome you feedback on this post. Have I missed anything? Have I got anything wrong? Please leave any comments or questions below.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Victoria
    Just read your post - thanks! there has been no information on this issue anywhere - or at least none through the door.

    My question would be who decides the policy of the council and how is that policy ratified? Presumably an elected mayor would be creating policy which would then be passed by the council. As you suggest this would seem to be problematic if the mayor is actually from a minority party in the council... how would s/he get things passed? and that could be the situation for 4 years - nothing gets done! would there be a protocol allowing for new local elections beyond the schedule?

    I also presume that the election of local councillors would continue as it is. This could result in the mayor losing a majority mid-term - even see-sawing between minority and majority rule. All sounds a bit unsatisfactory to me.

    Do you have info/opinion as to why these changes are being suggested now - is it just a fashionable idea or is it meant to actually improve our democracy?

    thanks again for the blog...