Briefing Paper: Elected Mayors

Prof. Catherine Staite and Jason Lowther

 

In this long-read, INLOGOV’s Professor Catherine Staite and Jason Lowther provide an in-depth brief on the role of the new elected mayors, how they relate to the devolution agenda and the things we should watch out for ahead of the upcoming mayoral elections on May 4th. 

 

1. Introduction

The role of elected mayor for regions, such as the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, has been created as part of a move to greater devolution of power over resources and policy, from central government to consortia of local authorities known as Combined Authorities, through which individual authorities have agreed to collaborate in applying these new powers and resources. The Combined Authorities have negotiated individual ‘devo deals’ with central government and, as a result, the extent of their devolved powers varies enormously (see Table 1 below). For example, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, formed in 2011, has been granted the most extensive powers of any Combined Authority, including powers over the NHS in the GM region. One of the prerequisites of the devolution of significant powers and resources to Combined Authorities has been the creation of a new elected office – that of a directly elected regional mayor.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 08.44.59.png

Table 1: Powers to Devolved in Devolution Deals. 

Of course, mayors are nothing new. Joseph Chamberlain, who led the foundation of this University, was elected Mayor of Birmingham in 1874 and acted as catalyst for hugely significant improvements to the lives of the people of Birmingham in the 1870’s and 80’s; clean water, better pavements and roads, as well as the iconic municipal buildings which still give the city its distinctive character today.   District, Borough and City Councils across the country already have civic mayors, who are appointed from among the council members, not directly elected by the public. They are easily identified, when carrying out their largely ceremonial roles, by their robes and chains of office.  More recently, directly elected “executive” mayors have been created in some local councils.

The question about whether we should have more elected mayors has been hotly contested. Conservative governments have demonstrated a surprisingly enduring enthusiasm for elected mayors for many years, in the face of opposition from many of their own MPs, local politicians of all political hues and the demonstrable apathy and mistrust of the public.

 2. What can we learn from international comparisons?

 There is an international trend towards directly elected mayors, especially in cities. The number of countries and cities that have decided to introduce directly-elected mayors has increased markedly since the 1980s (Hambleton and Sweeting, 2014).   In Europe, directly elected mayors were introduced into systems of local government in Slovakia (1990), Italy (1993), Germany, Hungary (1998), the UK (2000) and Poland (2002).

Outside Europe directly-elected mayors are now in place in many countries including New Zealand.

Hambleton and Sweeting (2014) suggest the mayoral trend is linked to four key themes in urban leadership:

  • The institutional design of local government: the attempt to enable effective civic leadership.
  • The drive for outward-facing leadership: responding to the trends of global competition and the need for “networked” governance where local authorities work with other statutory and non-statutory providers in multi-agency partnerships to deliver social policy.
  • The changing relationships between politicians and officers: including issues around the potential politicisation of the bureaucracy.
  • The relationships between city leaders and followers: with direct election challenging traditional party political models.

Hambleton and Sweeting (2015) summarise the arguments for and against directly elected mayors. Arguments in favour of directly elected mayors include:

  • Visibility – citizens and others know who the leader of the city is, generating
  • Interest in public issues
  • Legitimacy and accountability – arising from the direct election process
  • Strategic focus and authority to decide – a mayor can make tough decisions for a city and then be held to account
  • Stable leadership – a mayor typically holds office for four years and this can underpin a consistent approach to government
  • Potential to attract new people into politics – creative individuals may be able to stimulate innovation in citizen activism and business support
  • Partnership working – a mayor is seen as the leader of the place, rather than the leader of the council. This can assist in building coalitions

The arguments they present against directly elected mayors are:

  • A concentration of power – the model could place too much power in the hands of one person, who is overloaded
  • Weak power of recall – elect an incompetent mayor and the city is stuck with this person for four years
  • Celebrity posturing – the model could attract candidates more interested in self-promotion than sound policy-making
  • Wrong area – the Localism Act 2011 provided for mayors to be elected for unitary authorities when many consider that metropolitan mayors, covering a number of unitary areas, on the London model are needed
  • Cost – having a mayor will cost more money if the rest of the governance architecture of an area is unchanged
  • Our over-centralised state remains – without a massive increase in local power to decide things, the mayor will be a puppet dancing on strings controlled in Whitehall

Gains (2015) suggests that the current weak engagement between electors and representatives argues for a more visible and accountable leadership. She argues that calls for more participation require an activist leadership reaching out to citizens and bypassing entrenched interests such as political parties.

The Warwick Commission on “Elected Mayors and City Leadership” argued that “directly elected mayors offer the possibility of greater visibility, accountability and co-ordinating leadership as well as re-enchanting the body politic, and much of this derives from their relative independence from party discipline through their direct mandate and through their four year term. But they also hold the dangers of electing mayors whose popularity obscures their inadequacy in leading their communities” (Warwick Commission, 2012:7).

They pointed to five reasons often cited for the rise of the elected mayor as follows:

  • A response to the rise of the network society that otherwise disperses responsibility and a demand for greater accountability from political leaders
  • An attempt to reinvigorate democratic politics and civic engagement in the face of apparently widespread political apathy
  • A localist and decentralising reaction against the rise of the centralising power of the state or super state (European Union)
  • The realisation by some local politicians in certain areas that they can make the most impact through elected mayors, not traditional party politics
  • The return of ‘personality’ to the political agenda in place of depersonalised party systems.

 

 International case studies

  • Italy
  • Directly elected mayors since 1993.
  • Mayor appoints executive including non-councillors (often during the election campaign).
  • Limited to 2 consecutive terms.
  • Wide executive powers including roads, education, social services, housing, social security, planning, police, transport.
  • Mayor “acts as a powerful focus point of political decision making and is able to speak to all tiers of Italian government as a legitimate political leader and ambassador for the area. Indeed, mayors are often important players in the distribution of national resources to the localities” (Copus, Leading the Localities, 2006:145)
  • Council can either approve Mayor’s programme or table “no confidence motion” which results in resignation of both the Mayor and the council.

 

  • USA
  • “Strong” mayors predominate in larger cities, directly elected with mayor-council form of government (“weak” mayoral model in smaller towns with mayor indirectly elected by council).
  • Mayor acts as chief executive officer, directs administrative structure, sets policy agenda for the city, determines the details of the budget, and has a veto over council decisions (though may be over-ridden by two-thirds council vote).
  • New York City Mayor elected for maximum of three 4-year terms. The Council is a “deliberative and investigative body” monitoring performance, making land use decisions and passing local legislation.

 

3. How widespread are elected mayors in the UK?

 

The first directly elected mayor in the UK was introduced in Greater London in 2000 as part of the statutory provisions of the Greater London Authority Act 1999.

In England, elected mayors were established by the Local Government Act 2000. Eleven councils adopted a mayoral system (3% of councils), with over 80% adopting the leader-cabinet system.

As of May 2016, there had been 52 referendums on the question of changing executive arrangements to a model with an elected mayor. Of these, 16 have resulted in the establishment of a new mayoralty and 36 have been rejected by voters. The average “yes” vote was 45%. Typical turnout was around 30%, varying from 10% to 64%. There have been six referendums on the question of removing the post of elected mayor, of which three have been disestablished.

The Localism Act 2011 permitted central government to trigger referendums for elected mayors in 10 large English cities. On 3 May 2012, referendums were held in these cities to decide whether or not to switch to a system that includes a directly elected mayor. Only one, Bristol, voted for a mayoral system.

In 2014 it was announced that a Mayor of Greater Manchester will be created as leader of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. From 2017 onwards there are expected to be directly elected mayors for Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region, the West Midlands, and Tees Valley as part of the devolution deals introduced by the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016.

3.1     UK case studies

Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester (GM) has a long history of cross authority working and infrastructure. In 2011 they became the first group of authorities to establish a combined authority. Recently GM has been granted devolved decision-making which is (in UK terms) remarkably extensive. The “price” of this has been to agree to the imposition of a “metro mayor”.

The GM mayor will have devolved powers around housing, transport and (subject to unanimous approval by the constituent councils) spatial planning. They will also become the Police and Crime Commissioner for GM. They will chair the GM Combined Authority (GMCA).

GMCA will have responsibilities around devolved business support, further education, skills and employment, and housing investment.   It will jointly commission (with DWP) the next stage of the Work Programme, and has recently taken on responsibilities around health and social care integration.

In GM, the mayor’s decisions can be rejected by two-thirds of the cabinet consisting of the leaders of the ten constituent councils. The Statutory Spatial Framework is subject to unanimous agreement by this cabinet.

The new elected mayor will be subject to scrutiny by the existing scrutiny committee of the GMCA: the ‘GMCA Scrutiny Pool’, made up of 30 non-executive councillors drawn from the ten Greater Manchester boroughs.

The Government passed an amending Order to create an eleventh member of the GMCA (alongside the ten borough leaders) to be the ‘interim mayor’ until the first mayoral election. Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner, was appointed to the post (by the existing members of the GMCA) on 29 May 2015.

The March 2016 Budget announced the following additional powers for the GMCA:

  • bringing together work on Troubled Families, Working Well, and the Life Chances Fund into a single Life Chances Investment Fund;
  • working with the Government and PCC on joint commissioning of offender management services, youth justice and services for youth offenders, the courts and prisons estates, ‘sobriety tagging’, and custody budgets;
  • taking on adult skills funding
  • further discussion over approaches to social housing.

 The 2016 Autumn Statement further announced devolution of the budget for the forthcoming national Work and Health Programme and the beginning of talks on future transport funding in Greater Manchester.

West Midlands

The West Midlands mayor will represent a population of over 2.8 million people, compared to the average MP parliamentary constituency of under 96,000 people – almost 30 times as significant. The powers of the elected mayor are not yet proportionately significant.(see https://westmidlandscombinedauthority.org.uk/media/1572/adocpackpublicversion0001.pdf)

The West Midlands mayor will have limited independent powers, mostly relying on building consensus with local council leaders.

The constitution of the WMCA was approved on 10th June 2016 and published here:

https://westmidlandscombinedauthority.org.uk/media/1171/ca-draft-constitution-24-5-16.pdf

The constitution suggests that “any matters that are to be decided by the Combined Authority are to be decided by consensus of the Members where possible”. Where consensus is not achieved, each Member is to have one vote and no Member including the Chair is to have a casting vote.

Usually votes will require a two-third majority of constituent members, however several areas required a unanimous vote of all members, including:

  • approval of land use plans;
  • financial matters which may have significant implications on Constituent Authorities’ budgets;
  • agreement of functions conferred to the Combined Authority;
  • use of general power of competence within the Local Democracy Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, including in relation to spatial strategy, housing numbers and the exercise of any compulsory purchase powers;
  • approval to seek such other powers
  • changes to transport matters undertaken by the Combined Authority.

Non-constituent members will be able to vote on defined issues (where a simple majority is required) including around:

  • adoption of growth plan and investment strategy and allocation of funding by the Combined Authority
  • the super Strategic Economic Plan strategy along with its implementation plans and associated investment activity
  • the grant of further powers from central government and/or local public bodies that impacts on the area of a Non Constituent Authority
  • land and/or spatial activity undertaken by the Combined Authority within the area of a Non-Constituent Authority
  • Public Service reform which affects the areas of Non-Constituent Authorities
  • all Combined Authority matters concerned with education, employment and skills, enterprise and business support, access to finance, inward investment, business regulation, innovation, transport, environmental sustainability, housing, economic intelligence, digital connectivity and regeneration
  • future use of business rate retention funding generated beyond that retained within new and existing Enterprise Zones

The WMCA “cabinet” (council leaders) will examine the Mayor’s draft annual budget and the plans, policies and strategies, as determined by the Mayoral WMCA, and will be able to reject them if two-thirds of the Mayoral WMCA Cabinet agree to do so. In the event that the Mayoral WMCA reject the proposed budget then the Mayoral WMCA shall propose an alternative budget for acceptance by the Cabinet, subject to a two-thirds majority of those present and voting. The Mayor shall not be entitled to vote on the alternative Mayoral WMCA proposed budget. In terms of specific functions:

  • “Mayoral functions” will be devolved to the Mayoral WMCA by central government, exercised by the Mayor and subject to the provisions in the Scheme.
  • “Mayoral WMCA/Mayoral joint functions” are subject to the Mayor’s vote being included in the majority in favour with the two-thirds of the Constituent Members voting.
  • Mayoral “WMCA functions” are not subject to the Mayor’s vote being included in the majority in favour with the two-thirds of the Constituent Member voting. The items reserved for unanimous voting of the Constituent Members are also not subject to the Mayor’s vote in favour.

The functions which are proposed to be “Mayoral functions” are:

  • HCA CPO powers (with the consent of the appropriate authority(ies)
  • Grants to Bus Service Operators
  • Devolved, consolidated transport budget
  • Reporting on the Key Route Network (in consultation with the authorities)
  • Mayoral precept
  • Raising of a business rate supplement (in agreement with the relevant LEP Board(s) and the Mayoral WMCA)
  • Functional power of competence (but no general power of competence).

 

4       How do mayors fit with the wider devolution agenda?

The Government’s approach to devolution has been to negotiate the transfer of powers through a series of “devolution deals” or agreements. The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee concluded that “the Government’s approach to devolution in practice has lacked rigour as to process: there are no clear, measurable objectives for devolution, the timetable is rushed and efforts are not being made to inject openness or transparency into the deal negotiations” (CLG Committee, 2016).

The 2015 devolution agreements are a development of a series of “city deals” between 2011 and 2015; first with the eight core cities and later with 20 smaller cities and city regions.

The devolution deals agreed so far have many similarities in terms of powers to be devolved (Sandford, 2016). The core powers devolved include the following:

  • Restructuring the further education system.   Some areas will also take on the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers.
  • Business support. In most areas, local and central business support services will be united in a ‘growth hub’.
  • The Work Programme. This was the Government’s main welfare-to-work programme, subsequently replaced by a much smaller Work and Health programme. Many areas are to jointly develop a programme for ‘harder-to-help’ benefit claimants.
  • EU structural funds. A number of areas are to become ‘intermediate bodies’, which means that they, instead of the Government, will be able to take decisions about which public and private bodies to give EU structural funds to. The future of these funds is of course in doubt following the EU referendum.
  • Fiscal powers. Many deals include an investment fund, often of £30 million per year. Elected mayors will have the power to add a supplement of up to 2p on business rates, with the agreement of the relevant Local Enterprise Partnership.
  • Integrated transport systems. Many deals include the power to introduce bus franchising, which would allow local areas to determine their bus route networks and to let franchises to private bus companies for operating services on those networks. Each deal also includes a unified multi-year transport investment budget.
  • Planning and land use. Many deals include the power to create a spatial plan for the area.

Further details are provided in the Annex to this paper.

 

5       How well have other elected mayors performed?

Mayors in England have had a mixed picture of performance. In Stoke and Doncaster they did not deliver improvement, but in some areas they are linked to significant progress. The Warwick Commission concluded “our evidence suggests that elected mayors offer a real opportunity for change in a place where change is needed and also a way of invigorating a body politic”.

Gains (2015) concludes that “the evidence base for improved performance under mayoral governance is weak”. However, reviewing evidence on the introduction of the first city mayors she notes that “compared to areas operating a leader/cabinet model where the leader was indirectly elected, respondents to surveys of councillors, officer and local stakeholders in mayoral authorities agreed more strongly that there was quicker decision-making, that the mayor had a higher public profile, that decision-making was more transparent, that the council was better at dealing with cross cutting issues that relationships with partners improved and disagreed more strongly with the statement that political parties dominated decision-making”.

The Bristol Civic Leadership Project has explored the question “What difference does a directly-elected mayor make?” since September 2012. An early analysis published in 2014 identified that the Mayor had enjoyed access to central government ministers, that he had emphasised leading the city rather than the council, and that he was a more prominent public figure in Bristol city life than any previous leader.

The project’s final report in Sept 2015 (Hambleton and Sweeting, 2015) concluded that there has been a changed perception of governance in Bristol, in particular:

  • Many perceive an improvement in the leadership of the city, in areas such as the visibility of leadership, there being a vision for the city, the representation of Bristol, and leadership being more influential than previously was the case.
  • However, there are areas where the model is seen as performing inadequately. There are concerns about the levels of representation of views within the city, trust in the system of decision-making, and the timeliness of decision-making.
  • Frequently there are considerable differences of view about the mayoral model of governance from those situated in the different realms of civic leadership in Bristol. Councillors tend to display considerably more negative views about the impacts and performance of the new model compared to those in public managerial, professional, community and business realms.
  • Members of the public in different parts of Bristol tend to think somewhat differently about the impacts of the reform. Often, but not universally, those people living in better off parts of Bristol are inclined to see the move to, and the impacts of, the mayoral model more positively than those living in less well off parts of Bristol.

Assessments of the impact of the London Mayor are complicated by the evolving powers linked to this role. The initial model was largely restricted to transport, and led to the successful introduction of the congestion charge and cycling initiatives. The subsequent successful bid for the London Olympics 2012 perhaps demonstrates the wider “power” of the role.

Analysis suggests that leadership turnover in places with mayors is 50% lower than those with council leaders (Warwick Commission, 2012:29).

6       What issues remain to be resolved?

 

6.1     Scrutiny, checks and balances

The Warwick Commission argued that the relationship between mayor and full council needs to be constructed so the mayor is visibly held to account, yet their mandate should not be undermined by a body which has been separately elected. There needs to be an appropriate recall process which enables the removal of an elected mayor in office in extremis.

Gains (2015) argues that democratic considerations initially received insufficient attention in Greater Manchester. These relied on the cabinet of local council leaders provided strong veto powers and the four-yearly direct election of the mayor. However, she points out that the potential for wider and innovative public engagement and effective formal scrutiny were not fully explored initially. The latter could not rely on the cabinet because “their executive role precludes the kind of independent scrutiny expected elsewhere in local government”. She points out the more active public engagement and transparency arrangements are now being developed in GM.

The CLG Select Committee review of Devolution Agreements found “a significant lack of public consultation and engagement at all stages in the devolution process” (CLG Select Committee, 2016)

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill 2016 sets out key requirements for overview and scrutiny arrangements. Each combined authority will be required to establish at least one overview and scrutiny committee, consisting of backbench councillors from the constituent councils, to review and scrutinise its decisions and actions and those of the elected mayor.

Alternative models have been suggested through local decisions on a clear governance framework (Centre for Public Scrutiny) or introducing “second chambers” of people from the business, voluntary and community sectors and citizens’ panels (Institute for Public Policy Research North).

6.2     Public engagement and consultation

 A number of criticisms have been made of the lack of public consultation in most devolution negotiations. The House of Commons Local Government Select Committee found “a significant lack of public consultation and engagement at all stages of the devolution process” (CLG Committee, 2016).
There have been some examples of innovative engagement, for example the University of Sheffield and the Electoral Reform Society, with other partners, held two “citizens’ assemblies” in autumn 2015, in Sheffield and Southampton. Over two weekends, invited members of the public discussed devolution options in their local areas. Details of the assemblies and the outcomes of the public discussions can be found at http://citizensassembly.co.uk/. Similarly, Coventry held a one-day citizens’ panel on 9 September 2015, discussing whether the city should participate in the West Midlands combined authority. (Sandford, 2016).

6.3     Mayoral Powers

The Warwick Commission stressed that “the difference between ‘powers’ and ‘power’ is critical in discussing elected mayors. Whilst the debate about clarity over which powers (and budgets) Whitehall will hand to cities with directly elected mayors will continue, it is also important to recognise the soft and invisible power that has often been accumulated by elected mayors that sits outside their statutory remits has been considerable. In many cases, it has led to the granting of more powers” (Warwick Commission, 2012:8).

That said, they argue that “Mayors should examine the totality of the public spend in a place and hold bodies over which they do not have budgetary control to public account in a wider sense, e.g. the combined impact of social care, recidivism amongst low level offenders, impact of welfare and work and training”.

In terms of the national legislative framework, many powers are now available to elected Mayors. The list in Table 1 (below) is taken from NLGN’s publication “New Model Mayors: Democracy, Devolution and Direction” (2010) updated for powers subsequently provided to elected mayors.

 

 

Table 1: Comparison of current mayoral powers with NLGN proposals

 

NLGN Proposal Current position
The financial flexibility to balance budget over the 3 final years of a term, instead of being limited by in-year balancing No
The creation of a single capital investment pot for the area, so that all relevant monies are pooled and control over spend maintained by the mayor Yes?
The power to introduce a supplementary business rate of up to + or – 4p, with any extra funds raised to be spent on economic development within the locality as deemed best by the mayor Partly – currently limited to 2p and subject to agreement with the local business-led LEP.
Permission to use TIF mechanism through the establishment of an ADZ Yes (through New Development Deals)
Ability for mayor to appoint or dismiss Chief Executive, giving the council an advisory role but the final decision to rest with the Mayor No
Similar transport powers to those that the Mayor of London currently enjoys, in particular to have a say in local transport provision within the authority’s boundaries through chairing (or the nomination of chair) of the local transport body Yes?
The introduction of a new post of Police Commissioner, with the Mayor taking up this position or appointing a councillor to this position Yes
The power of appointment for the position of PCT Chief Executive and in addition power to nominate one person to sit as a non-executive member on the board of the PCT No
Alignment of PCT priorities with local Mayoral health priorities GM only
Responsibility, powers and funding for 14-19 and adult skills Yes
The formation of a statutory Employment and Skills Board, chaired by the Mayor or a representative of the Mayor, to devise strategy Yes?
Fast-tracked to a devolved commissioning model for welfare-to-work provision No – DWP resist devolved commissioning but promise to engage with local areas.
A seat in the second chamber of the Houses of Parliament No

 

6.4     Gender balance

Recent research by the Fawcett Society (Trenow and Olchawski, 2016) concludes that the current approach to devolution “risks handing power to male-dominated structures and shutting women out of the decision making process”.

Their analysis shows that for the Northern Powerhouse area (NP in the chart), 40% of councillors are women, rising to 50% in Manchester City Council. In this respect they outperform Westminster, where only 29% of MPs are women, and Police and Crime Commissioners (16% women).

Diagram 1: Representation of women

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 08.55.53

However, the proportion of women falls significantly when considering senior positions in the Northern Powerhouse. For these roles the figures are: to 28% of senior leadership roles and 14% of chairs of established and proposed combined authorities. More generally, so far only four out of 16 existing directly elected mayors in England are women.

 

 

 

References

 

CLG Select Committee, Devolution: the next five years and beyond, First Report of Session 2015–16, January 2016.

Gains, Francesca. “Metro mayors: devolution, democracy and the importance of getting the ‘Devo Manc’ design right.” Representation 51.4 (2015): 425-437.

Hambleton, Robin, and David Sweeting. “Innovation in urban political leadership. Reflections on the introduction of a directly-elected mayor in Bristol, UK.” Public Money & Management 34.5 (2014): 315-322.

Hambleton, Robin, and David Sweeting. “The impacts of mayoral governance in Bristol.” (2015).

Osborne, “Chancellor on building a Northern Powerhouse”, HM Treasury and The Rt Hon George Osborne MP, 14 May 2015

Sandford, Devolution to local government in England, House of Commons Library briefing paper number 07029, 5 April 2016

Svara, James H. Official leadership in the city: Patterns of conflict and cooperation. Oxford University Press on Demand, 1990.

Trenow, Polly and Jemima Olchawski, The Northern Powerhouse: an analysis of women’s representation, Fawcett Society, 2016

Warwick Commission. “Elected mayors and city leadership summary report of the Third

Warwick Commission.” Warwick, Warwick University (2012).

 

 

 

As DirectoCatherine Staite 02r of Public Service Reform, Professor Catherine Staite leads the University’s work supporting the transformation and reform of public services, with a particular focus on the West Midlands.  Her role is to help support creative thinking, innovation and improvement in local government and the wider public sector. As a member of INLOGOV, Catherine leads our on-line and blended programmes, Catherine teaches leadership, people management, collaborative strategy and strategic commissioning to Masters’ level.  Her research interests include Combined Authorities, collaboration between local authorities and the skills and capacities which elected members will need to meet the challenges of the future

lowther-jason

Jason Lowther is a senior fellow at INLOGOV. His research focuses on public service reform and the use of “evidence” by public agencies.  Previously he led Birmingham City Council’s corporate strategy function, worked for the Audit Commission as national value for money lead, for HSBC in credit and risk management, and for the Metropolitan Police as an internal management consultant. He tweets as @jasonlowther

 

 

The metro mayoral dilemma: how to big-up without overselling

Chris Game

Well, that was fun – the Daily Mail’s high-speed impression of the Grand Old Duke of York. In Monday’s first edition we were marched to the top of the hill, to glimpse a vista of a snap May 4th General Election, a Prime Ministerial Brexit mandate, and a three-figure Conservative Commons majority stretching way into the distance. And by the lunchtime edition we’d been marched down again, accompanied by much harrumphing about unfounded rumour-mongering.

With not calling an early election being among the few subjects on which Theresa May has been utterly consistent, the surprise would have been if she had. And my sole reason for raising it here is that, whatever its macro-political effects, a synchronous General Election would have significantly increased the likely turnout in the six metro mayoral elections, and consequently enhanced the profile, legitimacy and general political clout of both the new office and its first incumbents – all currently at a premium.

In the metropolitan West Midlands, then, we’re not going to see on May 4th the probably 60-65% turnout that was the 2015 General Election figure. That would have enabled the new mayor, in his or her meetings with ministers, to claim to be representing not only nearly 2 million electors, but perhaps 1 million who had actually participated in their election. Which in turn would make it that smidgen harder for the centre to cut local funding and resist further devolution, rationalising that few vote for and therefore care about their local government.

But now that’s off, what can we expect? A former student asked me recently – more or less a true story! – what the average turnout had been in all mayoral elections since Ken Livingstone’s first election as London Mayor in 2000. 38.7%, I told him, or thereabouts. He was surprised – and less by the confirmation that I was indeed one of those seriously sad people who know such things than by the figure itself. And of course he was right to be.

He fancied putting a bet (in the low-20s) on the percentage turnout on May 4th, when in the four metropolitan and unitary Combined Authorities (CAs) – West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, and Tees Valley – there are no other significant elections taking place. This year in the electoral cycle is shire county year, which should boost the mayoral turnout a bit in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough and West of England, but won’t help the others.

Mayoral%20election%20turnouts.JPG

If only I’d had my table with me, I could have shown my ex-student how that overall 38.7% masked the relatively respectable turnouts when mayoral polls had coincided with other elections, and particularly a so-called ‘first-order’ national (General) election, when voters reckon considerably more is at stake.

But when ‘only’ a mayoralty has been the prize – merely the elected political leadership of one’s city, town or borough – turnouts have been almost unexceptionally feeble. And those have been in established local authorities, familiar to electors, rather than new, huge, amorphous, unelected bodies that most voters have barely heard of.

And the situation gets worse. Most voters with at least some awareness of metro mayors fondly imagine these new politicians foisted upon us will have powers to do the things that we think are most urgent and would like them to do. Tough!

In last May’s Centre for Cities/ComRes poll – still the most comprehensive on metro mayors – of the five issues West Midlands respondents felt should be the priorities for politicians in their city, only one, housing, was something that would be among the responsibilities devolved either to a West Midlands metro mayor or even the Combined Authority.

Most%20important%20issues.JPG

Aspects of health and social care, education, and emergency services may possibly be devolved in the future. But on May 5th most of the mayor’s attention will go to business support and inward investment, transport, and colleges and adult skills that only about one in 20 possible voters have as their priorities.

It’s a big disjunction and on the face of it a recipe for yet further voter disillusionment. And a major dilemma for those who genuinely believe that elected mayors represent the best chance we’re likely to have of decentralising serious power to England’s localities and regions: how to ‘big-up’ the potential of metro mayors without misrepresenting and overselling them.

I have neither the answer nor much space, but I was struck this week by the Institute for Government’s latest ‘Local Leadership event’ – ‘How will new mayors work with Whitehall to improve their city-regions?’, and particularly the encapsulation of the IfG’s mayoral case by its Director of Development, Dr Jo Casebourne.

Emphasise, she suggested, these mayors’ difference from either existing or previously rejected mayors; that they’re leaders of place – of functional economic areas, not councils; able to provide visible, legitimate and accountable leadership and wield ‘soft power’, with better access to ministers and to other public sector bodies across their regions; and outward-looking and future-focused, able to attract inward investment and, working with other mayors, to secure, as in London, more devolved powers, both functional and financial, in the future.

 

Chris Game - pic

 

Chris Game is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.

De-reformation of the Local Government System in Turkey?

Saban Akca

Local government in Turkey has a two-headed structure: a centrally appointed governor with a plethora of responsibilities on the one hand and popularly elected municipal authorities on the other. This dualism dates back to the days of the Ottoman Empire, but in this blog I am not going to barge into historical details; rather I will discuss the current situation of the Kurdish municipalities that are now being seized one by one by Mr Erdogan, the Turkish President, and his political party, the AKP (Justice and Development Party), particularly after an infamous coup attempt last July. An upcoming referendum on 16 April this year – which is considered a pivotal move for transforming the country’s democratic parliamentary system to a presidency and creating a powerful sultan-president – will be also taken into consideration.

In the immediate aftermath of the coup, Mr Erdogan and his government started a brutal witch-hunt against all dissenters in Turkey, including liberals, leftists, seculars and followers of the Gulen Movement. Tens of thousands of public servants have been dismissed for allegedly being behind the coup and most of them arrested on not-so-clear charges. Their names have been publicised on the Turkish Official Gazette and almost everybody now treats them as terrorists or traitors. Companies that are deemed to be associated with the Gulen Movement have had their assets seized, been filled with appointed trustees and finally sold. Journalists have been jailed as their newspapers and TV stations have been closed down. The country is now in a constant state of emergency rule, in which everything is done with decrees streaming down from the presidential palace and where all kinds of illegalities committed by authorities are protected.

Municipal authorities in predominantly Kurdish towns and cities have their shares in these atrocities. After sending Kurdish deputies to jails, the government began to seize power in Kurdish local governments, particularly in the east and south-east of the country. Elected mayors have been replaced by appointed trustees, chosen from local governors in districts or provinces. However, removing mayors did not suffice, so they were jailed too.

Under the stretched state of emergency rule, with no visible and effective opposition remaining, Turkey is holding a referendum to turn its current political system into a presidency. This, unsurprisingly, will work best for the benefit of Mr Erdogan, who is trying to establish a de-facto sultanate. However, one of his referendum promises is to increase the number of greater municipal authorities by over 20, from the present 31. Considering that the country has 81 provinces, increasing the number of popularly elected local municipalities and enlarging their responsibilities across the provincial border is a bold move and may transform the local administration system and add more fuel to the discussion of devolution that has emerged since the 1980s.

The President’s referendum promises and his seizing of popularly elected municipal authorities in the country’s Kurdish regions represents a very problematic sphere in Turkish politics in terms of the empowerment of local governments. Increasing the numbers of democratically and locally elected mayors and devolving power to municipal authorities, as well as enlarging their territories and overlapping provincial borders is a powerful move in the case of strengthening local government reforms. However, only time will tell whether Mr Erdogan and his government are only merely tolerating those who he considers to be his political allies in local governments across Turkey. What we can say though is that this move will certainly bring more uncertainty to the country’s already troublesome local government system.

 

Saban Akca is a doctoral researcher in INLOGOV at the University of Birmingham. His research focuses on leadership in public administration, and his doctoral thesis examines the leadership exercises of local-level district governors in Turkey.

Troubled Families: So what can we learn?

Jason Lowther

Over the last five blogs I have looked in some detail at the Troubled Families Programme and in particular its independent evaluation. I’ve argued that the evaluation shows some important impacts from the programme, but has so far missed valuable learning by failing to capture the local angle, covering too short a time horizon, and not designing in a theory-informed experimental approach. This week I want to reflect on four lessons from the experience.

The TFP has delivered real impacts. We know that the TFP has changed how services for these families are delivered. The independent evaluation finds it has mainstreamed “whole-family” approaches, stimulated local multi-agency working, opened up previously impossible data sharing and made employment support more responsive. Families on the programme feel (and told the researchers) that it’s made a big difference to their lives. And the figures local authorities submitted about the changes in families who were classified as “troubled” (out of school, out of work, committing crime, etc) are audited and truthful – they do represent actual changes in people’s circumstances.

The TFP evaluation questions whether these impacts would have occurred in any case, without the TFP itself. But the evaluation was hamstrung by being undertaken too early and for insufficient time, by limited data (for example because academy schools are not required to co-operate on sharing vital information), and by the lack of an experimental and theory-based approach.

So what can we learn from the TFP experience?

First, the TFP isn’t the panacea ministers claimed – trumpeting an incredible 99% success rate whilst delaying publication of the independent evaluation set up the department to face a storm of media criticism. But it has made a big difference: the TFP changed how these services are delivered, the families noticed a significant improvement, and councils have rightly claimed for progress made.

Secondly, the department and evaluators have done a good job at trying to rigorously assess whether the TFP worked better than “business as usual”. Next time, it would be best to build a rigorous experimental approach into the programme design up front – and to develop some testable theories of how the programme is supposed to effect change.

Thirdly, national summaries can only take us so far. The real diamonds of learning are at local level. Departments should fund and support local areas to learn quickly from the natural experiments that happen when different councils adopt and adapt national policy which is based on limited prior knowledge and evidence.

Fourthly, although challenging for politicians with an eye on their ministerial career, pilots need to be given chance to bed-in before being pulled up for evaluation, and evaluation needs to run long enough to know whether we are getting results. Evaluators can learn from past experience and “new” approaches such as theory-based evaluation.

As TFP and other government programmes roll out in future, these four lessons can make sure that we learn and improve outcomes as quickly as possible.

 

lowther-jason

 

Jason Lowther is a senior fellow at INLOGOV. His research focuses on public service reform and the use of “evidence” by public agencies.  Previously he led Birmingham City Council’s corporate strategy function, worked for the Audit Commission as national value for money lead, for HSBC in credit and risk management, and for the Metropolitan Police as an internal management consultant. He tweets as @jasonlowther

The obstacle course of women’s representation in national and local government.

Chris Game

With last month’s Conservative by-election win, the Cumbria constituency of Copeland secured its place in parliamentary history. But exactly what place?

Throughout the campaign we were regularly reminded how Copeland (quite likely) or Stoke-on-Trent Central (conceivably) could produce the first government party by-election gain since 1982, and, without a defecting incumbent or the poll-topping candidate being disqualified, since 1960. And serious nerds knew it would be the first (pay attention here!) to overturn a main opposition party majority of more than 3%, without a defection, disqualification or significant change in the contesting parties, since 1878.

Copeland indeed proved to be the history maker, and yet … every one of these records (believe me, there were others) could in theory be overturned. For Copeland’s irremovable place in parliamentary history – and certainly to justify its heading a commemoration of March 8th as International Women’s Day – we should look first not to its voters, but to its MPs.

The by-election was instigated by Labour’s Jamie Reed announcing his intention to swap his MP’s job for one with Sellafield, the local nuclear decommissioning authority. In January, when he formally ceased being an MP, for the first time, sitting male MPs (454) were outnumbered by the TOTAL number of women MPs EVER (455) – that is, in all the 99 years since women first got the vote.

Feminist history had been made, but, slightly unsatisfactorily, by the action of a male. However, on March 1st Copeland’s victorious Conservative MP, Trudy Harrison, was sworn in as the 196th female MP in this parliament and the 456th ever.

Recalling that it was the Commons of just 20 years ago that Tessa Jowell famously reckoned contained more Johns and Jonathans than its 60 women MPs, it obviously does constitute progress. Even if she had to slip in the odd Jack or Jimmy, her point was made: the fewer than 1 in 10 women was a national embarrassment.

But the 30% that today’s 196 women represent, and the resulting 47th position in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Women in Parliaments listing, will strike many, as it did the Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee, as little less embarrassing, and “a serious democratic deficit” (para 7).

A description it would presumably apply to English local government too, since the numbers now are virtually the same. When Jowell did her John count, women members of England’s principal councils totalled over a quarter. Since when, while the proportion of women MPs was tripling, that of women councillors increased at the gastropodal rate of 1% every 3 years, to (based on the most recent English national councillors’ survey) an overall 32%.

In the other UK nations, women’s representation in local government is significantly lower than in England (p.7) – Scotland 24% of councillors, Wales 26%, Northern Ireland 25% – but their representation in their respective devolved bodies is in each case relatively higher – Scotland 35%, Wales 42%, and Northern Ireland, following last week’s elections to the new, smaller Assembly, 30%.

Which brings us to the next big English local elections – those in May for the elected mayors of six recently created Combined Authorities (CAs). What kind of visibility will women have in the governance of these new bodies? To which the regrettable answer at present appears to be: precious little. Otherwise there’d be no need for ‘The People’s Powerhouse’ (provisionally May 9th at Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat football ground) – the retort of some enterprising, and outraged, women to last month’s glitzy but shamefully mishandled Second UK Northern Powerhouse (NP) International Conference.

The NP, of course, is the large-scale devolution vehicle devised by former Chancellor George Osborne, with the Greater Manchester CA as its major driver. Its consciously macho name is enough to goad some, and the conference advertising did the rest, oozing clichés about delegates’ £450 + VAT opportunity to “network with the key players, potential business partners and stakeholders in the Northern Powerhouse economy”. For unfortunately it seemed that all the really KPs, PBPs and Ss – and certainly all 15 originally advertised main speakers – were male.

It almost beggars belief, and yet the organisers’ initial response to the women’s protest was reportedly one of ‘defiance’. And it’s not as if the NP hadn’t been warned – back in 2014 with a widely mocked picture of a dozen “pale, male” and rather self-satisfied council leaders signing the first Greater Manchester devo deal. And again more recently, in the Fawcett Society’s actual “analysis of women’s representation” in the Northern Powerhouse.

Defining the NP’s ‘senior leadership roles’ as council leaders/mayors, deputy leaders, CA chairs, and chief executives, the Society’s researchers found that only 28% of these 134 posts across the NP’s seven CAs were occupied by women, including just one of the CA chairs – with even that 28% owing much to non-politicians: the 40% of women CEs.

Here in the West Midlands the 7-borough WMCA figures are even more unbalanced. 7 constituent authority leaders and 5 non-constituent authority leaders – all male; (currently) 11 CEs – 10 male; 3 LEP chairs – all male.

And, like most CAs, the signs are that we’re heading for a male mayor. Of the 33 currently known mayoral candidates, 27 are male (82%), including 12 or the 14 Conservative and Labour candidates – the two latter exceptions, both Labour, being Lesley Mansell in the West of England, and, perhaps the most likely ‘First Woman Metro Mayor’, Sue Jeffrey in Tees Valley.

I feel the final words on this International Women’s Day, that at least in its present form originated with the UN, should go to the Women and Equalities Select Committee, mentioned briefly above. Clearly unconvinced by the various parties’ earnest but unsubstantiated commitments to improve their selection performance, the Committee calls on the Government to recognise its role: to set a “target of 45 per cent for representation of women in Parliament and local government by 2030 in response to the UN indicators for Sustainable Development Goal 5.5; [and] set out how it plans to achieve this target, working with political parties.” Now if only the head of that Government were a woman …

 

Chris Game - pic

Chris Game is a Visiting Lecturer at INLOGOV interested in the politics of local government; local elections, electoral reform and other electoral behaviour; party politics; political leadership and management; member-officer relations; central-local relations; use of consumer and opinion research in local government; the modernisation agenda and the implementation of executive local government.

 

Troubled Families: How Experimenting Could Teach Us “What Works?”. Part 2.

Jason Lowther

In my last blog I looked at how designing a more experimental approach into this and future programmes could yield lots of insight into what works where. This week I would like to extend this thinking to look at how “theory-based” approaches could provide further intelligence, and then draw some overall conclusions from this series.

As well as rigorous analysis of quantitative impacts, theory-based approaches to evaluation can help to test ideas of how innovative interventions work in practice – the “how?” question as well as the “what works?” question[1].

For example the Troubled Families practitioners might have developed theories such as:

  • Having consistent engagement with a key worker, and working through a clear action plan, will increase families’ perception of their own agency and progress.
  • Having regular and close engagement with a key worker will enable informal supervision of parenting and reduce risk around child safeguarding concerns.
  • Having support from a key worker and, where needed, specialist health and employment support, will increase entry to employment for people currently on incapacity benefit.

Interestingly each of these appears to be supported by the evaluation evidence, which showed much higher levels of families feeling in control; lower levels of children in need or care; and reduced benefits and employment (compared to controls).

  • Having consistent engagement with a key worker, and working through a clear action plan, will increase families’ perception of their own agency and progress. The evaluation showed almost 70% of TFP families said they felt “in control” and their worst problems were behind them, much higher than in the “control” group of families.
  • Having regular and close engagement with a key worker will enable informal supervision of parenting and reduce risk around child safeguarding concerns. The TFP “final synthesis report”[2] shows the number of children taken into care was a third lower for the TFP families than for the “control” group (p.64).
  • Having support from a key worker and, where needed, specialist health and employment support, will increase entry to employment for people currently on incapacity benefit. Again, the final synthesis report suggest that the weeks on incapacity benefit for TFP families was 8% lower than the controls, and the entry into employment 7% higher (pp.56-57).

 

The TFP evaluation probably rightly writes off these last few examples of apparent positive impacts because there is no consistent pattern of positive results across all those tested. Given that the evaluation didn’t attempt to test particular theoretical hypotheses like this, it is possible that they have occurred through natural random variation. But if a much more targeted search for evidence built on theory delivered these results consistently, that would be worth celebrating.

Next week I will conclude the series by reflecting on the four key lessons we can learn from the TFP evaluation experience.

[1] See Sanderson, I. (2002) ‘Evaluation, policy learning and evidence‐based policy making’, Public administration, 80(1), pp. 1-22. And White, M. (1999) ‘Evaluating the effectiveness of welfare-to-work: learning from cross-national evidence’, Evaluating Welfare to Work. Report, 67.

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/560499/Troubled_Families_Evaluation_Synthesis_Report.pdf

 

lowther-jason

 

Jason Lowther is a senior fellow at INLOGOV. His research focuses on public service reform and the use of “evidence” by public agencies.  Previously he led Birmingham City Council’s corporate strategy function, worked for the Audit Commission as national value for money lead, for HSBC in credit and risk management, and for the Metropolitan Police as an internal management consultant. He tweets as @jasonlowther