In nine months time, the people of Manchester will be given the opportunity to vote on whether they would like to be given the opportunity to decide on an elected mayor for the city.
Current city council leader Sir Richard Leese has held the position since 1996 in the historically Labour leaning city of Manchester. Many people have questioned the process that allows Leese to maintain in his position of power relatively unchallenged, and have also criticised him for overseeing a council that pays its chief exec over £200,000 a year when public services in the city are being forced to reduce their budgets.
An elected mayor would undoubtedly be an Improvement on the decidedly less democratic process of councillors deciding upon a leader and the mayor will have greater powers to influence policy decisions in the city and act as a figurehead to promote Manchester at a national and international level.
Boris Johnston and Ken Livingston have occupied the position in London since the role was created in 2000 and both have experienced swings in public opinion, attracting both admiration and derision for their roles in supporting the London 2012 Olympic, raising awareness of climate change, banning alcohol from the underground and closing The Londoner newspaper.
As a position of power, a city mayor will attract their fair share of criticism, as the position can be attained without the requirement of any political experience the role of mayor can quickly become a burden that weighs heavy around the neck of any individuals that are unaccustomed to the ways of media sound-bites and public decorum.
Alternatively, a city elected mayor provides real people with a voice for how they’d like to see their city run. I remember the campaign of Stuart Drummond, better known as H’Angus – the monkey mascot for Hartlepool United, who was voted mayor of Hartlepool in 2002 on the back of a manifesto pledge – ‘free bananas for schoolchildren’. Remarkably he was re-elected in 2005 and the people of Hartlepool were obviously impressed with his performance to the extent that he went on to win a third term in 2009.
What other prominent Manchester figures could you imagine running for mayor and what policies would they introduce…?