Devolution and Good Mayoral Governance White Paper- by Ed Hammond, in partnership with Trowers and Hamlins

Posted on 15/06/2023 by Ed Hammond.

Directly-Elected Mayors (DEMs) have been a feature of executive governance in England for more than two decades but their work has been comparatively little-studied (with the possible exception of Bristol’s two mayoralties). Despite Government’s focus on them as a key component of the devolution framework, outside of combined authorities they are not especially common.

Now, however, the Government’s plans on devolution places them centre-stage both for local councils and combined authorities. The publication of the first iteration of the Government’s English Devolution Accountability Framework in March 2023 provides an excellent opportunity to understand what it is that makes mayoral governance effective – because an understanding of where and how “effectiveness” arises makes it easier to understand outcomes, and to manage key accountabilities.

This paper is intended to explore the subject of directly elected Mayors in English (DEMs) local government, and as a feature of English combined authorities. Questions we explore are as follows:

– What makes for a “good” Mayor?
– Are the accountability systems and checks and balances we have in place for DEMs fit for purpose and proportionate?

This paper introduces the Mayoral system in both local and combined authorities, before exploring five components about what make for “good” and “successful” Mayors:

– Mayoral character;
– Mayoral convening power;
– Mayoral ability to develop a “sense of place”;
– Accountability systems around Mayors;
– The ability to deliver, and demonstrate, better outcomes?

Are these the right “metrics” against which to measure the strength of the Mayoral governance model? What other mechanisms exist to explore and judge Mayoral effectiveness, and how can lessons be drawn that would prove useful to areas
establishing Mayoralties for the first time?

About the Author: Ed Hammond

Ed leads CfGS's work on devolution, transformation and on support to councils and other public bodies on governance and accountability.