Support grows for mayors as Londoners hail “better city” from experience

IPPR North, democracy, local government, political events, UK politics

Author(s):  Will Straw
Published date:  11 Apr 2012
Source:  Left Foot Forward

The referendums offer a real chance for cities to think about how they want to be governed. While there can be no guarantees, introducing mayors could be a good chance for these places to become “better cities” as Londoners believe.

The latest ComRes poll on the London mayoral race appeared to show bad news for Ken (although questions have been raised about the veracity of the Evening Standard’s claims that “liftgate” was affecting the result). But a question buried deep in the full tabs contains good news for advocates of mayors.

Over two-thirds of those polled (69 per cent) agreed that “London is a better city for having a Mayor”. Just 12 per cent disagreed.

Ten cities will vote on whether to follow London’s lead on May 3rd. Although many voters are not aware that the votes are taking place, there appears to be modest support for extending the number of mayors.

In Birmingham, a recent poll found 54 per cent support the city having a directly elected mayor with 23 per cent opposed. But only 41 per cent are aware of the poll. In Manchester, the decision is far closer with 43 per cent of Mancunians intending to vote in favour while 50 per cent would rather stick with the status quo.

There was, however, more support for the idea of a mayor for the whole of Greater Manchester. Across the region, 56 per cent thought that was a better idea than individual mayors for individual towns and cities.

A separate poll which interviewed 500 people each in Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Wakefield and Doncaster found 53 per cent of people said they would like an elected mayor with 37 per cent disagreeing and 10 per cent undecided. That said, 90 per cent  of respondents said they had been given little or no information about the vote.

As my colleague Lewis Goodall wrote yesterday for the Newcastle Journal:

We live in the most politically centralised country in the developed world. Often this means that the North is unable to respond to the opportunities and challenges of its citizens. This is not helped by the fact that public spending continues to be disproportionately directed to London and the South East.

IPPR North research, for example, has shown that while the government plans to spend £2,700 per head on upcoming infrastructure projects in London and the South East, it plans only to spend just £5 a head in the North East.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson argues for yet more and more public money to be pumped into the capital.  Our local government, as presently constituted, seems unable to provide the counterbalance we desperately need on the national stage.

The referendums offer a real chance for cities to think about how they want to be governed. While there can be no guarantees, introducing mayors could be a good chance for these places to become “better cities” as Londoners believe.

IPPR North is organising a debate with the Yes and No campaigns in Newcastle and on Tuesday 17th April at 6.30pm at the City Library. Speakers include former Cabinet Minister Lord Andrew Adonis and former leader of Newcastle City Council Lord Jeremy Beecham.

 
 

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Will Straw, Associate Director for Climate Change, Energy and Transport