Go your own way : Ray Mallon and local leadership in Middlesbrough

John Fenwick, Janice McMillan, Jim Grieves

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The directly-elected executive mayor was an entirely new concept in English local government. Introduced as one of the choices available to local electors under the Local Government Act 2000, it had the potential to revolutionise the way our towns and cities would be run. The office of elected mayor was thought to provide the basis for effective local leadership, better management, community advocacy, and a degree of direct public endorsement that was singularly lacking within the old bureaucratic committee structures of local government. Strongly influenced by the experience of the United States and European countries, the mayor would reconnect the council and the public. Supporters of this new approach could be found on both the Left and Right of the political spectrum. Within the Conservative party, Michael Heseltine was an early advocate of the elected mayoralty, and, within the Labour -party, its supporters were not confined to the Blairite modernisers. Elements of an older Left discerned the prospect of strong democratic renewal in the shape of the elected mayor (eg, Todd, 2000). Yet the idea has not caught on. By 2004, only eleven English areas beyond London had chosen the elected mayor as their preferred form of local leadership. No major city outside London is run by an elected mayor. Even where local mayors have taken office, local attitudes have frequently been shaped by specific local factors, not least the negative reputations of the previous local regime. However, much still remains to be said about the mayoral experiment. It has been persuasively argued by Anna Randle (2004), in her study for the New Local Government Network, that elected mayors have indeed made a difference. While the elected mayor must be seen as, to some degree, political failure for central government, given its very low take-up and its uncertain future, it is beginning to deliver a changed relationship with the public and a strong form of leadership in the small number of areas where it has been introduced (Fenwick and Elcock, 2005). Study of the achievements and failures of elected mayors now in place tells us much about the nature of local leadership and the changing role of political representation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-37
JournalPublic Policy and Administration
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004


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