Daily Archives: July 27, 2009

Strengthening Local Democracy – Government Consultation

I could, and might yet, say all sorts about this document. One particular little bullet point hidden away on page 44 caught my eye, though.

163. This raises the question of whether sub-regional structures are sufficiently visible and accountable to citizens. If they are to be granted significant powers and responsibilities, it is vital that local people are able to understand and be involved in the arrangements that are in place to manage activity and make decisions at this level.

164. Any new proposals will need to fit with the ideas set out in the first chapter of this consultation of local residents understanding of where they can hold local services in an area to account. We also wish to raise the question of whether citizens should be more directly involved in electing representatives to structures at this level, if significant additional powers, as was the case with London, are to be granted. Any reforms in this area would of course require public support. Whilst the government’s policy on mayoral governance at local authority level remains as outlined early in chapter 2, we are interested to hear views on other possible options including:

• establishing ‘city-region leaders’ – existing sub-regional partnerships could elect, from among their members, a single leader who would be a figurehead for the partnership. This would not lead to more powers but would provide greater visibility for the work of the partnership to citizens
• creating new sub-regional local authorities – rather than current and planned sub-regional bodies, which are limited to specific issues such as economic development and transport, new sub-regional local authorities could be established with a much wider range of powers. Any direct elections to these authorities would lead to greater engagement with the sub-regional level but there would need to be a clear division of responsibilities between the new and existing tiers, and scrutiny could be complex
• mayors for city- and sub-regions – executive mayors with powers over strategic issues could be created for city- or other sub-regional areas and be directly elected by the population. This would provide strong accountability but there would again need to be a clear division of responsibilities. The role of existing local authorities would be reduced, although they could scrutinise the activity of the mayor
• a combination of a directly elected executive mayor and directly elected subregional scrutiny body – this is similar to the model of the mayor and assembly established in London. The mayor would have executive power, potentially over a wide range of issues, and would be held to account by a body of people directly elected by citizens for that purpose.