Elected Mayors for city regions could make a difference, but not so much for individual local authority areas.
The Elected Mayor of London has powers and responsibilities over the whole of Greater London, allowing the post holder to significantly influence matters such as transport, housing, and economic development across the whole region. The Elected Mayor of London is held to account by the Greater London Assembly, made-up of 25 elected representatives. This model of governance allows the 33 London boroughs to work in tandem and compete with other world class cities.
3 of the London boroughs (Hackney, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets) also have local elected mayors, the powers of the post holders are no greater than those of the previous cabinet that were in place in the boroughs (and remain so in the other London boroughs). It is the regional Elected Mayor of London that wields the real powers and makes the big difference
Across England 15 local authorities areas have adopted an Elected Mayor. The role allows for a more streamlined system for decision-making, but doesn’t necessarily improve decision-making. Stoke-on-Trent City Council adopted an Elected Mayor in 2002 only to abandon the model in 2009, during the 7 years the arrangement was in place the success of policies and programmes implemented by the post holder did not significantly improve the health or wealth of city any more than those put in place under the models of prior and post the Elected Mayors.
The City regions of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear, West Midlands, and West Yorkshire would all benefit from having a model of governance that mirror that of Greater London. This would allow these areas to competitive with major cities across the world. Adopting an Elected Mayor just for the individual local authority at the heart of each of these regions will not bring about any significant benefit to how policies are made or put into action.
For example, an elected mayor for the City of Manchester would not be able to formulate and execute transport policy alone, the co-operation of the Council leaders in the 9 other Greater Manchester boroughs would be required, as is the situation now. However the Elected Mayor of London does have sole control over this policy area and therefore can make a significant difference. An elected Mayor for Greater Manchester would have the same power.
Greater Manchester already has governance model similar that of the London Assembly through the Combined Authority that was established in April 2011. Allowing this set-up to mature to the same status as The Greater London Assembly and adopting the post of a single Elected Mayor for the whole of region will be much more beneficial than the present proposals for elected mayors set-out by the Government.
If the small number of people who actually bothered to vote in Salford think they are going to get a Boris Johnson style elected mayor they are very much mistaken,. What they will get is a Jules Pipe (Elected Mayor of Hackney) or a Steve Bullock (Elected Mayor of Lewisham), or a Luther Rahman (Elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets). Never heard of them, nope me neither. I’m sure they all work hard for their electorate, as do all the elected mayors across the country. But the difference they can make is not any more than the Council leaders they replaced.
For the electorate of Salford it is too late, unfortunately they’ve lumbered themselves with a costly system of governance that hasn’t really shown any real benefits over the usual leader/cabinet style models of governance.
If people living Manchester (or any of the other 10 cities that have referendums in May) want to see a real improvement to their health and wealth they will need to reject the proposal for local elected mayors and campaign for a regional elected mayor and assembly for the whole of Greater Manchester.