Are we witnessing the rise of the city mayor?
That is the view of journalist and chairman of the National Trust Simon Jenkins in his recent article ‘Elected mayors will destroy our shadowy civic mafias’ published in the Guardian on 17 April. With nationwide mayoral elections happening in the next month, now should be a time for healthy public debate about the future of urban environments such as Liverpool and Salford.
However, Jenkins argues that the significance of local government has lessened as a result of Whitehall seizing increasingly centralised power.
“The truth is that the public trusts local more than central,” argues Jenkins. “Britain’s 20th century tradition of governing its cities through shadowy party groups has run its course. They have not defended urban Britain as they should, and inner cities as a result have not revived as habitable and prosperous places, like those in most of the rest of Europe. Something has been missing that Whitehall cannot replace.”
The appetite for public involvement in local politics is evident through the buzz surrounding the London mayoral election. Jenkins identifies a recent event in French history that could stimulate similar enthusiasm and political change across the rest of the country.
“In France in 1982 it was the Loi Deferre, championed by elected mayors across the country, that finally reversed the crippling centralisation of the French public sector. It freed cities to challenge Paris as centres of economic growth and culture.”
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