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The idea of a directly elected mayor for British local government is a popular and workable idea claims the Commiss...
The idea of a directly elected mayor for British local government is a popular and workable idea claims the Commission for Local Democracy in a report released today.

The report also calls for legislation so that a number of authorities can lead the way for change.

The idea of a directly elected mayor is popular with the public (over 70% support the idea according to survey evidence) and it has attracted support from some leading politicians at national and local level. In particular Tony Blair, the Labour party leader, has argued in favour of the idea.

Critics both within the Labour party and beyond have suggested that the idea is unworkable. The CLD's report sets out to refute that argument.

Professor Gerry Stoker said: 'People often say to reformers that the devil is in the detail. But I found the more I examined the practice of other countries and the institutional options available to us the more I became convinced that the introduction of a directly elected mayor for our towns and cities was a viable reform'.

The report shows that there is an international trend towards the introduction of directly elected mayors. It is not just an idea based on US experience. In particular the report examines recent reforms in Germany and Italy which have seen their systems change to allow people to directly choose their local political leadership. The German reforms are interesting because they have rested on a variety of mayor-council systems being established.

A major lesson from the research is that there is no one form of mayoral system - at least three are identified in the report. Moreover, it is clear that within each system a significant role exists for other elected representatives in the assembly or council. Most mayors are also joined in their work by a Cabinet.

The research suggest that although the introduction of a directly elected mayor is not a panacea, it could help revitalise local democracy by attracting the attention of the public and providing the basis for a more vibrant community governance.

The report explores in detail arguments for and against a change in the current system first suggested in the CLD's report 'Taking Charge: The Rebirth of Local Democracy', published in June 1995.

The report concludes that the weakness of the existing arrangements and the potential of appropriately designed alternatives are sufficient to justify a firm commitment to legislation and the establishment of a number of exemplar authorities to lead the reform process.

-- The Reform of the Institutions of Local Representative Democracy: Is there a role for the mayor-council model? costs £4.95 and is available from CLD, University of Greenwich, Churchill House, Wellington Street, London SE18 6PE. Tel 0181 331 8019.

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