Headlines: March 20th, 2006

Elected mayors are creating more interest in local democracy among the media and voters, according to the conclusions from a collection of essays from the New Local Network. They also show mayors acting as a strong focal point for business and inward investors, acting as decision-makers for the whole community and not just about council services.The collection – “Mayors making A Difference” – includes essays from the mayors of Bedford, Doncaster, Hartlepool, Lewisham, Newham, Stoke-on-Trent and Watford. The collection has been edited by Kiran Dhillon, who said, “The quicker pace of decision-making and their strategic view across their locality means mayors are having a positive impact on service delivery”

The Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock says 69 per cent of local people think the council is doing a good job and that figure has increased for the third consecutive year. “Recognition of the Mayor is at an all time high – at 38 per cent in November 2005, compared to 16 per cent two years previously,” he writes in his essay.

Sir Robin Wales, the Mayor of Newham, suggests that public priorities are given more impetus by elected Mayors. “I am already answerable to the electorate for community safety. I know I’m judged on it even though I have limited room to act. That’s why Newham has seen a transformation in community safety…that could only be achieved through mayoral governance,” he says.

In a foreword to the report, the only current city mayor outside London, Mark Meredith from Stoke-on-Trent highlights the positive impact mayors can have on regeneration and economic development. In a final chapter, Kiran Dhillon, looks at the lessons from the Mayoral experience that could be transferred to other form of local leadership. “These essays pick up on some of the unique features of mayoral governance. It is clear, however, that some of the lessons are transferable to other types of political leadership, for example, directly elected cabinets and city region-mayors,” she concludes