Evidence shows that mayoral governance has made our city government more effective in terms of delivery (see, for example, the Bristol Civic Leadership Project from the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol). Rather than simply overseeing the administration of services, the essential role of an elected mayor is as a leader and convenor, ensuring that what the city achieves collectively is more than the sum of its parts.
The democratic legitimacy and influence afforded to a city mayor enables the individual elected to act as an effective convenor of different interests and organisations within the city. A directly elected mayor can galvanise partners across the public, private, voluntary, community and education sectors to put their collective weight behind delivering on shared long-term priorities.
The One City Approach and its One City Plan is a clear example of how a mayor can use the legitimacy of direct election to harness the civic capacity of Bristol to jointly create the kind of future we want to see. Feeding Bristol, which coordinated the city’s response to increased food insecurity during the pandemic, and Bristol City Funds, which brings together the public and private sectors to fund solutions that target the causes and effects of inequality (these include Talking Money, supporting citizens experiencing debt, and Autism Independence, supporting families with children with autism from minority communities), are just two examples of how this model delivers change.
Focusing on the intricacies of Bristol’s governance model is a distraction from getting on and tackling the issues that are affecting people’s lives. Bristol needs governance that facilitates collaboration and looks outwards to the city, not inwards to city hall. The evidence shows that the mayoral model enables the type of outward-facing leadership our city needs and deserves.