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Executive mayors: a fair bet?

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Following Caroline Spelman’s announcement that an incoming Tory government would extend the number of directly elected mayors and boost their powers, there is an intriguing prospect that some council chief executives could find themselves out of a job in the not-too-distant future.

Mike Smithson

So how serious a threat is all of this?

What are the chances of it taking place, say, in the next three years? Well, first the Conservatives have to win the election with a big enough majority to govern. I’d rate that at about a 75% chance.

Then we have to assess the priority they would give the plan. My guess is the chances of this going through for implementation by, say, May 2011 must be about 40%.

Then the referendums will have to take place.

Since elected mayors were introduced, proponents of the idea have had difficulties getting the voters to back them. There’s been a success rate of just one in three. So a 35% probability of an individual referendum supporting the idea seems about right.

Then elections would take place and only after the successful candidate is in place would the question of taking over the powers of the chief executive come up. Let us say 50% go down this route.

So, my calculator tells me, for each of the CEOs there’s a 5.25% chance of losing their jobs. As a gambler I would be looking for odds of more than 20/1 that an individual would go.

Mike Smithson is former BBC journalist and Lib Dem councillor and founder of

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