LGC has analysed five mayoral posts in England.
In 2000 Ken Livingstone became England’s first directly elected mayor. Having fallen out with Labour, he was elected mayor as an Independent and went on to become arguably England’s most successful mayor in terms of project delivery.
He introduced the congestion charge, Oyster card, and free public transport for under-18s in full-time education and invested hugely in buses. Back in the Labour fold during his second term, he was an integral part of the successful London 2012 Olympics bid.
While London’s self-service cycle hire scheme was introduced under successor Boris Johnson (Con), it was Mr Livingstone’s idea. However, his mayoralty increasingly became beset by controversies, for instance when he refused to apologise for likening a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard.
Mr Johnson introduced a revised version of the Routemaster bus and an East End cable care but his attempt to create a ‘Boris island’ airport has foundered and Crossrail 2 remains on the drawing board only. None of this has stopped him being widely touted as the next leader of the Tory party.
Tony Travers, director of the London School of Economics, told LGC the two mayors have been in charge at “very different times”, pre- and post-recession so it was “very hard” to compare them. However, he said the fact they had been unafraid to stand up to their own political parties showed the office of mayor “drags you centre-wards” and added it was “important” the post had operated successfully under both Labour and the Conservatives. “If it had only ever been held by one party that would’ve weakened it,” said Professor Travers.
Like Sir Steve Bullock in Lewisham LBC and Sir Robin Wales in Newham LBC, Hackney LBC’s mayor Jules Pipe [Lab] has contested and won four elections since 2002. When he first took office, Hackney was among the worst run councils in the country. Since then Mr Pipe has overseen an overhaul of education, with the establishment of five new secondary schools and rapid economic growth, capitalising on the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics in particular. As chair of London Councils, Mr Pipe has set aside party politics to work with the mayor of London Boris Johnson (Con) and be at the forefront of developing proposals for wide-ranging powers and controls to be devolved to the capital. Professor Travers said Mr Pipe, Sir Steve and Sir Robin were all “very pro-business” and “progressive” in their politics. “I think all of them have been successful,” he said.
Tower Hamlets LBC
Commissioners were sent in late last year after an independent report by accountancy firm PwC identified a “failure to comply” with Best Value duties, including the way in which grants worth £408,000 were awarded and property had been sold.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman (Tower Hamlets First) was stripped of his mayoral office at Tower Hamlets in April following a court hearing which declared his election in 2014 void. Despite a five-year period in office mired in controversy and an ignominious end, Professor Travers said Mr Rahman was “quite successful in terms of what he did on the ground”. Between 2010-11 and 2014-15, Tower Hamlets delivered the highest number of affordable homes – 5,590 – in the country. Professor Travers said: “Services didn’t break down, and in fact if you look at his record [Mr Rahman] took advantage of the London property market to build a huge amount of social and affordable housing.”
Having been elected in his guise as the monkey mascot of the local football team, Stuart Drummond (Ind) was elected mayor of Hartlepool in 2002, much to the annoyance of local Labour MP Peter Mandelson. He surprised his critics by rising to the challenges of the office and twice retaining the post in subsequent elections.
Speaking to LGC last week, Mr Drummond said one of his greatest achievements was cutting crime and anti-social behaviour by more than half in just over a decade. Operation Clean Sweep, in which individual neighbourhoods were targeted for street cleaning, road repairs, and health checks was also held up nationally as an example of best practice, said Mr Drummond. An election promise to provide free bananas to every child proved too expensive to implement, although Mr Drummond did manage to increase fruit provision in schools.
Having no background in local government, Mr Drummond said he found the party politics “boring”. In 2012, Hartlepool’s Labour councillors instigated a referendum on the directly elected mayor post and the post was abolished the following year. Mr Drummond said he had “no regrets” and added he would have relished taking advantage of the government’s devolution agenda as he felt he would have been able to achieve more with greater powers.
Bristol City Council
Since his election in 2012, mayor George Ferguson (Bristol 1st) has ruffled a few feathers in the city, especially in relation to the introduction of residents parking zones. The rollout of 20mph zones in the city has proved equally controversial. However, Mr Ferguson looks set to deliver on a manifesto promise to create a new entertainment venue in the city which will also result in the redevelopment of the Temple Meads railway station. Research released in March this year by academics from Bristol University and the University of the West of England showed the introduction of an elected mayor in Bristol had led to a dramatic increase in the perceived visibility of the city’s leadership. However, public confidence in the council’s decision-making processes remained largely unchanged.
LGC's analysis of some of the most prominent elected mayors