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'SO FAR SO GOOD FOR ELECTED MAYORS' CLAIMS NEW REPORT

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A new report launched today by independent think-tank, the New Local Government Network (NLGN) will suggest that th...
A new report launched today by independent think-tank, the New Local Government Network (NLGN) will suggest that the experience of the UK's 'First Eleven' mayoral authorities at the 'mid-term' stage is a broadly positive one; and recommend that the government should consider widening an experiment that has made local political leadership more visible and more attributable.

Based on the continuing work of NLGN's mayoral forum and results from a public opinion survey conducted in the mayoral areas, Mayors Mid-term: lessons from the first 18 months of directly elected mayors reveals that an average of 57% of local people in mayoral authorities know the name of the elected mayor - more than double the average for councils with a leader/cabinet model. Among the three mayoral authorities in the North-East, this average rises to 73%.

The report, by NLGN head of organisation, Anna Randle, and including work from public opinion pollsters NOP also finds that people in mayoral authorities are greatly aware of the mayors' involvement in both addressing local problems and delivering new and more joined-up forms of community leadership. Speaking about her findings, Ms Randle said:

'Regardless of how each individual mayor is performing, their increased visibility as 'mayor of the area' is influencing how people judge their performance. In the public's eye, they are no longer the anonymous, non-directly accountable leader of the council but the person with whom the buck stops. Such profile has the potential to strengthen democratic accountability'.

The NLGN report notes that while it is still too early to fully judge exactly what impact mayors are having on services, few of the scare stories about what elected mayors might lead to have come true. The report argues for a new, more sophisticated debate based on hard evidence of how the elected mayors are performing. As Ms Randle claims:

'On the basis of the report's evidence, it is clear that many good things are emerging in the ma yoral authorities and that the main fears expressed about the model - both before and in light of the elections - have not emerged in practice. The government would do well to consider experimenting with the model further - and preferably in at least one major city'.

Mayors Mid-term carries a foreword by James Purnell MP, a former No 10 advisor, in which he refers to the report as 'valuable and timely' and adds:

'As the report makes clear, it is still relatively early days to draw conclusions, but at least we can start to debate what has happened - whether the worst fears have been realised and the most optimistic hopes achieved. Readers will disagree about whether mayors help improve governance and raise participation. But the issues that the elected mayor model tries to address will remain at the core of debates about devolving power and improving delivery of local services'.

Notes

The New Local Government Network (NLGN) is an independent think-tank, seeking to transform public services, revitalise local political leadership and empower local communities. www.nlgn.org.uk

Anna Randle, the author of the report, is head of organisation at NLGN. She also runs the mayoral forum - established by NLGN 18 months ago in association with the IDeA, and which brings together the UK's local authority elected mayors (although not the mayor of London).

Mayors Mid-term by Anna Randle published by NLGN, price£21.25 (inc p&p). To order, email network@nlgn.org.uk or call 020 7357 0152.

The report is being formally launched today at an event with Anna Randle, Dorothy Thornhill, mayor of Watford and Rob Whiteman, deputy chief executive, Lewisham LBC.

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