Examination of Witness (Questions 314
THURSDAY 1 JULY 1999
Mr Page, good afternoon.
(Mr Page) Good afternoon.
314. Thank you very much for responding to our
invitation. We do have the written evidence of MORI and we would
be grateful if you would just draw our attention to any particular
points you would like us to note before we go on to question you.
We have of course had the opportunity to read your evidence in
A. I think basically the evidence I am going
to give is mainly about attitudes to the proposed three models,
which of course excite a great deal of attention in local government
at the moment. What the evidence shows as far as we are concerned
at MORI is that mayors are popular, but having said that when
one looks beyond thatand this is mainly in qualitative
work and there is a lot of it going on at the momentthere
are perhaps other concerns that people have about local government
which are not necessarily, in the eyes of the public, being directly
addressed in the draft Bill. That is my opening statement and
I am happy to take questions.
315. When you say mayors are popular, mayors
are popular doing a function now which is very different from
what is being proposed in the draft Bill.
316. A mayor goes to a school wearing his chain.
In Lancashire they call them the "chain gang" when the
Lancashire mayors are all together. They go to people's diamond
weddings; they perform a very different function. So how do we
know people really understand what the Bill is proposing for an
elected mayor with responsibilities?
A. When people are answering questions in opinion
polls, they do not have a detailed understanding. What they are
responding to when we see the majority is in favour is that they
like the idea of being able to directly choose a figurehead with
whom the buck stops to run their own authority. At the moment
many people see their local authority councillors as rather anonymous
and rather remote, and I could use another set of choice words
which people often use to describe them in research we do up and
down this country.
Sir Paul Beresford
317. Where did you do your surveys and in what
sort of numbers? In rural areas?
A. I understand you have had Gerry Stoker give
evidence, have you?
A. I have seen his evidence so I will not repeat
it but MORI conducted a survey of 1,000 people in the five main
metropolitan cities which is reported, and we asked people whether
they supported or opposed their city having a directly elected
mayor. Secondly, we did some work with the Government's People's
Panel and we asked people how they would like to have a say in
what the council does and, as you can see in my evidence, 55 per
cent of people said they supported an elected mayor as a means
of doing that although, as I also pointed out, they chose other
things ahead of that as a way of influencing the council.
319. So you have done it in five inner city
areas and with only 1,000 people, and if one asked about local
government in most of the inner cities in this country there are
difficulties in people's minds about local government whatever
it is doing.
A. I am not pretending the public has a detailed
understanding of this and I would not want to suggest that.