Today’s announcement by the Communities Secretary for less targets, more public accountability and better leadership for our local authorities should only be welcomed, especially by the left. They offer a new constitutional framework that will protect local government from a future “Thatcher” style centralising government and put services more truly in the hands of the people. It will give local Government the leaders to stand up to central government and focus on the local needs of their electorate.
Love him or hate him, the Mayor of London, has made London proud of its self and brought back the idea that who you vote for really does matter. Without Ken Livingstone there would be no mainstream leader would be sharing a stage with Hugo Chavez; without it being a Labour Mayor we would have not seen the support for record levels of investment into the public transport network, funding for LGBT Pride and the campaign for a living wage for Londoners. When Ken is involved you cant miss the MAYOR OF LONDON symbol on posters around London and the underground which makes clear where the accountability lies and where your taxes are going.
Mayors for the other great cities in the UK would do this as well and would in many places give people the Labour Leadership they voted for rather than the Tory/Liberal collusion we see in places like Birmingham. Decisiveness, leadership and accountability is what our cities deserve. We need to have direction and someone with the power, vision and structure to see it through. Directly elected mayors will make town halls more democratic, giving people real choice through their own form of PR – supplementary vote – and an option to elect the Executive and legislature separately.
Campaigns for a mayor for Liverpool supported by groups like the New Local Government Network are local people calling for change and better governance of the area. Under these Mayors, you will know who is responsible for any council tax rises, why strategic decisions have not been taken and have someone to hold to account!
This system will also make Labour better leaders locally, there will be rigorous accountability of the Mayor (if they are Labour), it will be a highly contested selection meeting unlike too many councillor seats and because a Mayor only needs a third of the council to see through proposals Labour Leaders will no longer be held to ransom by factions in the Labour Group intent on derailing the leaders agenda.
For more information on the White Paper see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6084998.stm or http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1002882&PressNoticeID=2271.