One by one UK cities vote no to mayors, while Liverpool votes in its first
Coventry has voted No to an elected mayor. The Guardian speculated on Wednesday that this may be because the city isn’t the “basket case” it once was and the case for change isn’t a strong one. Lack of information about the powers a mayor would gain can’t have helped.
We’ll have to wait until this afternoon for the results in Birmingham.
Bradford – the largest English city not to be included in the “Core Cities” and therefore not fast tracked into the City Deals process – has voted no to switch to an elected mayor, although the focus this morning is likely to be on the 5 seats gained by Respect, which included the council leader's seat.
The challenges facing the city – in particular around the Westfield “hole” - have been well highlighted by George Galloway in recent weeks. Bradford needs to make sure the economy their first priority, working closely with its neighbours through the proposed ‘Combined Authority’. But we’ll have to wait until later today to find out which way its neighbours Leeds and Wakefield will vote and assess what impact that might have on Bradford’s economic future.
Since elected mayors came on the agenda, Manchester has been adamant that it doesn’t want or need a mayor. Last night's close result wasn't the resounding no vote we might have expected, but it was still a ‘no’ all the same.
Leader Richard Leese has kept his seat and his position, and called for a proper conversation about a Metro Mayor for Greater Manchester - which is the model that makes most sense given Manchester's long history of working with its neighbours and the fact that they already have a Combined Authority covering 10 local authorities.
Manchester will need to ensure that it does not lose out by not having a mayor and being excluded from David Cameron’s cabinet of mayors (although this looks like an increasingly cosy meeting anyway…). Given Greater Manchester’s strengths and its innovative City Deal, making sure Manchester are round the table for conversations about economic prosperity is in the Government’s interest too.
As the Government reflects on what happened with its campaign for directly elected mayors, it should consider whether we might be talking about a different result if yesterday’s referendum had been on a Metro Mayor for Greater Manchester.
See my comment piece in LGC for further analysis on Manchester.
Nottingham has voted a disappointing No in the mayoral referendum. The fact that no local elections were going on at the same time may go some way to explain the low turnout. The council leader is reported to have said that he will write a letter to Greg Clark "demanding" a City Deal. We would support this; Nottingham’s City Deal needs to meet the same criteria as all the others with respect to offering better outcomes or greater efficiency in terms of devolution, and Government will demand a strong governance structure before it devolves – with a Combined Authority not on the agenda, Nottingham will need to be clear about how it meets this criterion. But if the city is allowed to choose whether to have a mayor or not and decides not to, then it should not be penalised for this decision when it comes to City Deals, especially as Nick Clegg has been clear that a City Deal is not dependent on having a mayor.
It looks like after being the first to negotiate a City Deal for Liverpool, Joe Anderson has smoothly moved from the position of council leader to city mayor. Over the next 6 months, other cities that vote yes will be looking to Liverpool to prove what a difference an elected mayor can make for a city.
Labour has won back Birmingham, but despite expectations that this would be the city which voted a resounding “Yes” for a mayor, early indications are that this is much less certain than predicted. A ‘no’ from Birmingham must prompt serious soul-searching within the Government about how it has run the campaign and the fact that it did not communicate clearly either the benefits of a mayor or the additional powers they would have. We’ll have to wait until this afternoon to find out the final verdict.
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