I’ve been looking at the debate around proposals to devolve power to English cities, by installing elected mayors who (it is argued) will help areas outside London ‘punch above their weight’ and revitalise interest in local democracy.
I wanted to find out more about the arguments around this idea in Bristol, where I work, which is one of 10 cities having a referendum on the issue on 3 May. My feeling, without finding any hard research to stand this up, is that the debate has yet to catch the imagination of the public outside a small group of engaged campaigners on either side – and that getting a decent turnout in the vote will be a big challenge.
Poll evidence suggests that people are concerned about the big issues: crime, the economy, jobs, education and the NHS. The communications challenge here is focusing the debate on these issues, rather than the technical and dry point of local governance structures or the cost of holding the referendum itself.
Hopefully some of this material will be of interest – please feel free to add others.
- The Bristol Elected Mayor campaign sets out the argument for change, whilst Bristol Says No has recently launched in the city.
- Bristol City Council recently sent a leaflet to residents attempting to set out what it means.
- Business West, which represents 6,000 companies across the patch, argues that an elected mayor would be ‘good for Bristol’.
- There have been debates on the issue, at the Bristol Festival of Ideas and more recently on College Green, which was covered on BBC Newsnight on Friday.
- The Bristol Evening Post is covering the debate and inviting readers’ opinion on its letters pages and in an online poll – which currently indicates support for the proposal.
- There have been blog posts on elected mayors on Left Foot Forward and Bristol Culture.
- There’s a good set of links about the debate on the Bristol 24-7 website.
- Michael White in The Guardian asks whether an elected mayor would ‘shake up Bristol’ on 1 April.
- The video below is of a debate that on Bristol City Council’s YouTube feed.
The Government’s proposals are explained in a Plain English document. To vote in May 3 2012 referendum, visit the council’s website.