The Bristol City Office – what’s it all about?

Tessa Coombes - PhD student in Social Policy, University of Bristol

Tessa Coombes – PhD student in Social Policy, University of Bristol

Last Thursday saw the launch of the Bristol City Office, an idea that has been six years in the making. It’s an idea that seeks to address some of the challenges faced by the public sector, with ever decreasing budgets and reducing powers. It’s about partnership and collaborative governance, bringing organisations, individuals and budgets together to tackle the issues that we have failed to tackle before, where collaboration and joint working are essential, alongside the willingness to be creative and innovative. But why will this approach work when other attempts have failed and how is this different?

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What impact do mayors have on the cities that elect them?

Dr David Sweeting, Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies

Dr David Sweeting, Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies

Bristol’s Thinking Futures Festival of Social Science kicks off with a debate on the merits or otherwise of directly elected mayors, on 9th November at 6pm in the Watershed. Strengthening city leadership by introducing directly elected mayors is now firmly on the agenda in the UK. Several cities, including Bristol, Leicester, Liverpool, and London already have directly elected mayors. Manchester plans to introduce a ‘metro mayor’ in 2017, with the prospect of other cities to follow. Supporters claim that the mayoral model of governance can provide more visible, more accountable, and ultimately more effective city leadership. Critics argue that the model can lead to an over centralisation of power, weakening the role of councillors, and undermining confidence in local democracy. In this blog, one of the speakers at the event, David Sweeting, discusses the impact of the introduction of a mayoral system of governance in Bristol.

Recently George Osborne announced the creation of a ‘metro-mayor’ for Greater Manchester. In doing so he has joined a long line of heavyweight politicians who have endorsed the idea of directly elected mayors as at least part of the solution to issues in urban governance in English cities. From as far back as Michael Heseltine in the early 1990s, via Tony Blair, and through David Cameron the idea of a single figure to govern our cities has resonated strongly in Whitehall. In the press release on Manchester’s metro-mayor, Osborne is quoted as saying: “This will give Mancunians a powerful voice and bring practical improvements for local people, with better transport links, an Oyster-style travelcard, and more investment in skills and the city’s economy”. The prospect of other cities introducing similar figures is clearly back on the agenda – whether on existing city boundaries or across a city-region.

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What impact do mayors have on the cities that elect them?

David Sweeting, Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies in the School for Policy Studies

David Sweeting, Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies in the School for Policy Studies

Greater Manchester will become the next urban area in the UK to directly elect a mayor, following Bristol who first elected a mayor in 2012. One of the frustrations in the debate around directly elected mayors, however, is the lack of empirical evidence around which to evaluate their impact. Here, David Sweeting presents some early analysis of data from both before and after the introduction of the mayoral system in Bristol.

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One year in, Bristol’s Mayoral experiment is making a difference to the city’s governance

Bristol’s first Elected Mayor, George Ferguson, gave his first State of the City address yesterday. Here, in a post that first appeared at Democratic Audit, David Sweeting reviews the first year of George’s term in office and examines what the impact of Mayoral governance has been.

Picture of GeorgeIt is nearly a year since the first directly elected mayor of Bristol took office. While Bristol is not the only place in the country to have such a mayor, it was the only one of ten cities that said yes to a mayor in referendums held in May 2012. Despite various inducements from central government in the form of looking favourably at city deals, and also the prospect of a mayors’ cabinet with the PM himself, Bristolians were the only citizens in the country at that time to go for the option of replacing a traditional council leader with what many see as an American style figure at the head of city government. So, as the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, prepares for his first ‘state of the city’ speech, it seems appropriate to ask, what difference does having an elected mayor make? Continue reading

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