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Directly-elected mayors

Published Thursday, May 19, 2016

This briefing paper explains the status of directly-elected mayors in English and Welsh local government, and the routes to establishing them, including the use of local referendums. It also includes an up-to-date list of elected mayors and statistics on previous referendums.

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The power to create directly-elected mayors was introduced into England and Wales by the Local Government Act 2000. A directly elected mayor and a cabinet is one of three different ‘governance arrangements’ or ‘political management arrangements’ available to local authorities: the others are a leader and cabinet, and the traditional ‘committee system’, where decisions are made by policy committees and approved by full council. Elected mayors may be introduced in England and Wales, but not in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Initially, an elected mayor could only be created following a referendum in favour in the relevant local authority. Since 2007, local authorities have also been able to create an elected mayor by resolving to do so.

The majority of referendums on creating elected mayors have resulted in ‘no’ votes. Currently, 16 local authorities have elected mayors. This figure does not include the Mayor of London or the proposed mayors in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, and other large urban areas, which are covered by separate legislation and have different powers to local authority mayors.

Mayors do not have powers over and above those available to non-mayoral local authorities.

Separate notes are available on the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority (SN/PC/5817), and on the directly-elected mayors in areas such as Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region, which have been proposed as part of devolution to local government in England.      

Commons Briefing papers SN05000

Author: Mark Sandford

Topics: Elections, Local government

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