Memorandum by Councillor Nigel Todd, Newcastle
City Council (LAG 04)
My submission supports the introduction of directly
elected executive mayors into the English local government system.
The substantial case for establishing a new kind of popularly
elected office is outlined in the enclosed pamphlet The Democratic
City: an elected mayor for Newcastle? which I wrote and published
early last year. Since publication, the pamphlet has been circulated
widely in Newcastle upon Tyne and via a websitewww.geocities.com/democraticcity/
and has been discussed at numbers of local meetings. The
City Council is currently in the process of appointing a Constitutional
Forum to consider forms of local governance, including an elected
mayor, with the intention of producing a report prior to a referendum
anticipated in the autumn of 2001.
My starting point in writing the The Democratic
City was one of moving from being a deep sceptic about the
idea of elected mayors to changing my mind in the light of experience
of the drawbacks of the cabinet-scrutiny model of local government.
This was no easy shift to make, especially as I spent the first
half of 1999 chairing a City Council Select Committee, composed
of Councillors and people external to the local authority, created
to devise a system of scrutiny to be utilised under new local
The Committee produced a model that would have
been effective, and was apparently agreed by the then Policy and
Resources Committee of the City Council, but the reality since
the establishment of scrutiny committees in the autumn of 1999
has been very disappointing. Indeed, most Councillors now feel
excluded from real decisions to the extent that the City Council
is again reviewing the situation.
In fairness, it has to be said that the City
Council has made some progress in modernising its governance structures
and practices, yet the cabinet-scrutiny system is proving too
obscure and anonymous for people generally to understand, and
seems to have been accompanied by a considerable shift in the
balance of power from elected representatives accountable to the
voters and in favour of senior officers of the local authority.
My first point in favour of introducing a directly
elected mayor, therefore, is one of restoring the democratic features
of local government. A referendum would enable people to decide
at the ballot box just how they would like their City to be governed.
The subsequent election of a mayordepending upon the perspectives
put forward by the successful candidate and endorsed by the electoratecould
expose decision-making to greater public accountability and visibility.
The Democratic City discusses the advantages
and disadvantages of elected mayors. It makes the point that elected
mayors may not herald a new dawn for local government and may
not result in vastly increased election turnouts, and may even
produce some unpleasant variants in the exercise of the office.
On the other hand, existing systems of local governance can, and
do, have the same impact. But an elected mayor, potentially, could
bring new energy and imagination onto the scene.
Given the right circumstances, locally determined,
an elected mayor may be able to "kick start" local democracy
in ways appropriate for the beginning of the 21st Century, viz:
By locating the office firmly in
a belief in the value of urban living and the important role played
by cities in meeting social and economic needs for millions of
people and ensuring cultural variety and educational opportunities.
By offering clear leadership across
a city so that the directions of policies are known and there
is clarity about the locus of decision-making.
By connecting the office of mayor
directly with the electorate and involving people in shaping policies
for the future of their city.
By creating new structures for the
development and monitoring of policiesfor example, setting
up Mayor's Commissions to take partnership working into
major themes such as life long learning, public transport, community
safety, housing, cultural developments.
By recognising that the accountability
of the mayor to an entire city necessarily requires fresh efforts
to ensure that all sectors of a city's population are represented
in the formulation and delivery of policies and services, thereby
placing an enhanced priority on the achievement of social inclusion
and equality of opportunity.
This is a brief synopsis of what I think is
now the case for an elected mayor. Should the Select Committee
wish to explore these ideas in more detail, I would be happy to
be of help and could supply further copies of The Democratic
City if necessary.