Date and Time: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 6.00pm
Venue: Council Room, The Constitution Unit
The London borough of Hackney has had an elected Mayor since 2002, when Jules Pipe was elected into office. Mr Pipe argued that Hackney faced series issues at the time; crime rates were high, the council’s finances were in a poor state, and educational attainment was low.
Mr Pipe recognised that before changes could be made in the borough, changes would have to be made to the council itself. His first priorities were to reintroduce good governance and financial competence. In practice this meant improving the lines of communication within the council, developing a shared vision, and pursuing the best value for money for the borough.
The new Mayor set high standards for his team, bringing in experienced people and fostering a performance management culture. Their aim was to improve the services that would benefit the whole community, focussing on projects such as building new schools, resurfacing roads and improving public amenities.
In his view, it remains vitally important to work with other bodies, such as the Police and the London Mayor, to achieve the best results for Hackney. Mr Pipe’s long-term goal is to improve the reputation of Hackney, so as to encourage commercial investment.
Lord Adonis explained how he first became involved in the campaign for elected Mayors after being invited to speak at the Lunar Society in Birmingham last year. In his view, the city lacked a coherent vision for the future; what it needed was a Mayor to fight for Birmingham’s interests.
According to Lord Adonis, a recent study has shown that only 16% of people think they know who the leader of their local council is – and half of those get it wrong. In his view, having directly elected Mayors would raise the profile of local politics, and improve local council accountability.
Despite the largely negative response to elected Mayors in the recent referendums, Lord Adonis believes that all major cities could have elected Mayors within 15 to 20 years. He argues that the introduction of elected Police Commissioners in November will help the case for elected Mayors, as they will have some of the powers of elected Mayors.
Note prepared by Jeremy Swan, intern on the Unit’s Special Advisers project.