Magazine article Public Finance

Policy by Ideology

Magazine article Public Finance

Policy by Ideology

Article excerpt

Greater Manchester will install a directly elected mayor in 2017, as part of the devolution deal struck with Whitehall last year, Whoever the new leader turns out to be, they will wield more executive power than the next London mayor, due to be elected in May.

Adding a mayor into the Manchester mix is a challenging notion. The post is being created by government fiat, with no mandate and in defiance of what has happened in the past, as Neil Merrick explores on page 22.

The Manchester mayoralty is, arguably, yet another example of the government's current enthusiasm for enacting policy that seems based on conjecture and ideology, rather than consensus and evidence.

The London mayor post was a Labour invention, created during Blair's administration in 2000 alongside the Greater London Authority. That was, however, built on a solid mandate from a referendum in 1998, in which every London borough backed the proposal.

Buoyed by that success, Labour invited other local authorities to hold referendums. Only 30 of the 433 eligible councils ran with the idea, and only 11 of those ballots backed the notion of an elected mayor. The status quo proved to have a strong allure, for elected and electors alike.

Punctured by that lack of success, enthusiasm for mayors slumbered for a decade, until the Coalition woke it up again with the 2011 Localism Act. It imposed referendums on the largest councils in England, whether they wanted one or not. Ten referendums were held in 2012, only one of which, in Bristol, led to the installation of a mayor. …

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