We had a pretty decisive vote by Croydon voters to go for a directly elected mayor in May 2022, even though the turnout was only 21 per cent last week. This confirms the pattern in London boroughs in favour of directly elected Mayors after similar referendums were won in Newham and Tower Hamlets in May to confirm their Mayoral systems when opponents put up the referendums! This does of course pose the question, what about the prospect in the City of Westminster for directly elected Mayor?
The decisive vote is not a surprising result bearing in mind Croydon Council’s financial challenges and political turmoil. Saying this, it will be interesting to see which political party benefits from the change. It is by no means certain there will a Tory Mayor of Croydon next May.
More intriguingly, it is understood that Michael Gove is a massive fan of directly elected mayors in England & Wales and sees them as a key element of his levelling up agenda, sighting Ben Houchen and Andy Street as two superb example of how the model works.
The key question going forward is whether the government (Gove) will encourage more directly elected mayors through incentives (extra powers and more funds) or simply impose them across the board. There are of course two different types of models in London, one being borough-based and the other regional-based. We have many directly elected Mayors on a borough basis in London already – Newham, Lewisham, Hackney & Tower Hamlets and of course Greater London regional one with the Mayor of London.
Gove is not known to be scared of radical change so watch this space. Local government excelled itself during the pandemic. So is there an appetite in town halls across the land for massive structural change? So it maybe the Mayoral option is coming sooner than we realise in the City of Westminster. This all makes for interesting times.
Clearly how leadership is undertaken is critical in either models, and that has clearly been lacking in City of Westminster over its COVID19 pandemic response being one of the worst in London in terms of take up of vaccines and the waste of several million pounds on the Marble Arch Mound which could have been better used on desperately needed front line council services. It will undoubtedly be influenced by recent events in the City from the ground. But don’t forget what is happening from the top on this matter as l suspect it won’t go away.