When Bristol’s first directly elected mayor Independent George Ferguson was sworn in during a ceremony at Brunel’s historic Temple Meads station he asserted “I believe today we have voted for a new way of doing things.” Now into second year of his term in office this paper uses data from a series of interviews with Bristol’s councillors and former leaders to assess what difference an elected mayor can make in the context of Bristol.
Beyond legalistic conceptions the role of directly elected mayors is contested. The divergence in interpretation of the role of elected mayors is heightened by opportunities for innovation afforded by individual City Deals. Conversely the capacity to do things differently is bound by an organisational system where roles, functions and procedures are historically informed and institutionally engrained. The analysis explores the varied conceptions of local politicians of what they consider to be the role of a directly elected mayor. In interrogating how individual politicians conceive the original role of council leader and contrasting this with their conceptions of the new role of a directly elected mayor, this paper offers a critical appraisal of how the expectations and perceived limitations of the role have informed the opportunities and barriers for both innovation and change.
Oliver, T. (2014, September). Assessing the directly elected mayoral model in Bristol: An empirical investigation of the contrasting definitions of the role of a directly elected mayor. Paper presented at Policy & Politics conference 2014: The challenges of leadership and collaboration in the 21st Century