Elected Mayors in the United Kingdom

Directly elected mayors are council leaders who have been directly elected by the people who live in the local authority. This is in contrast to the "leader and cabinet" model in which the leader of the council is chosen by other elected councillors; this is the most common form of local government in the UK.

There are currently 16 directly elected mayoral positions in England and none in Wales.

The post of elected mayor is different from that of Lord Mayor, which is ceremonial.


The first directly elected mayor was introduced in Greater London in 2000 as part of the statutory provisions of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. Elsewhere in England and Wales, since the Local Government Act 2000, there have been a range of options for how a local council leadership can be constituted, and installing a directly elected mayor is one of these options. It is possible to introduce or remove the office of mayor in any local council, other than the Greater London Authority, by triggering a local referendum with a signed petition. There are currently seventeen directly elected mayors, including the Mayor of London.

In 2000, the Labour government led by Tony Blair passed the Local Government Act 2000, which introduced the option of directly elected mayors (also known as directly elected Council Leaders) for local authorities in England and Wales. The Act ended the previous committee-based system, where functions were exercised by committees of the council.

The position of the elected Mayor of London is a strategic regional one, and quite different from that of local authority Mayors. In addition to the Mayor of London, twelve councils in England now have directly elected mayors with powers and an advisory cabinet to assist them. The changes were encouraged by the central government but usually required local request and ratification by referendum. This system had been considered by the previous government, and former Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine had been a proponent of it.[1]

A number of areas with Elected Mayors have also Lord Mayors. Lord Mayors are ceremonial roles conferred on acting councillors, and are separate from Elected Mayors.

Regional variations

Some of the first mayoral elections were won by independents, notably in Hartlepool, where the election was won by Stuart Drummond, who played Hartlepool United's mascot; and in Middlesbrough, where it was won by former police officer Ray Mallon, who left the local police force to stand for election. Having receded somewhat as an issue after 2002, it has now moved up the political agenda again, following positive reports of mayors' performance under the new system and recent Labour gains in several mayoralties. In February 2006, the Labour-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research published a report calling for elected mayors in Birmingham and Manchester, which was positively received by the government, but not by the two city councils concerned.

In October 2005, Torbay elected its first elected mayor.[2]

In October 2006, the DCLG White Paper Strong and Prosperous Communities proposed that in future the requirement for a referendum to approve the establishment of an elected mayor for a council area be dropped in favour of a simple resolution of the council following community consultation. It also proposed the direct election of council cabinets where requested, and that the mayor-and-council manager system in Stoke-on-Trent be reformed into a conventional mayor-and-cabinet system, it having been the only English council to adopt that system.[3]

Wales and Scotland

Although Wales is included in the legislation, only one Welsh authority, Ceredigion, has held a referendum on such a proposal. The referendum, in May 2004, resulted in the proposal being rejected by over 70% of the voters.[4]

The Act does not apply in Scotland and the Scottish Parliament has chosen to reform local government instead by introducing the Single Transferable Vote electoral system. The Scottish Conservatives support elected mayors where there is found to be "local demand in our major towns and cities".[5] A mayor in Scotland is traditionally known as a provost.

Political attitude to system

There has been councillors backlash about perceived excessive power of directly elected mayors.[6] There has also been some academic comment to the effect that the role "may merely attract mavericks and self-publicists".[6] But British Prime Minister David Cameron is broadly in favour of the system, saying directly elected mayors are "accountable" and can "galvanise action".[7]

Voters in Stoke-on-Trent voted to remove the post of elected mayor on 23 October 2008, to be replaced with a system of council leader and cabinet.[8] In November 2012 Hartlepool also voted to scrap the position of directly elected mayor in a referendum,[9] while almost one year later voters in neighbouring Middlesbrough voted for the system's retention at the 2015 local elections.[10]

There have also been campaigns in four of the twelve local authorities with directly elected mayors to hold referendums to abolish the posts.[11] In Doncaster, in March 2007, "Fair Deal" campaigners presented an 11,000-signature petition to the council calling for a new referendum. The council voted 31–27 in favour of a new referendum, which was held in May 2012.[12] In Lewisham, the Bring Back Democracy campaign called for a new referendum, citing poor turnout and a very close result in the 2001 referendum.[13] In April 2007, Lewisham Council voted 28–24 against a motion calling for consultation over the issue.[14]

There are a number of private citizen campaigns underway for a referendum to introduce directly elected mayors in a number of English councils. Some of the most notable are in Shropshire, Stockport, Carlisle, Workington, and Stafford.

In September 2011 citizens of Salford collected the requisite number of signatures to force a referendum. It was held in January 2012 with a narrow victory for the yes camp of 56%-44%. The referendum was notable for its poor turnout of just 18.1%. The first mayoral election took place in May 2012.[15]

On 2 May 2012, centre-right think tank the Bow Group published a short article supporting directly elected mayors in large English cities.[16]

On 3 May 2012, referendums were held in 10 English cities to decide whether or not to switch to a system that includes a directly elected mayor.[17] Only one, Bristol, voted for a mayoral system. Doncaster voted to retain its elected mayoral system in a referendum held on the same day. Liverpool City Council has decided to have a directly elected mayor with effect from May 2012, without a referendum.[18]


A local-authority elected mayor has powers similar to those of the executive committee in a Leader and Cabinet model local authority. These are described as either "exclusive" powers or "co-decision" powers and are defined in the Local Government (Functions and Responsibilities) (England) Regulations 2000.[19]

Co-decision powers are those the mayor shares with the council, notably the power to make the local authority's annual budget and its policy framework documents. These are: Annual Library Plan; Best Value Performance Plan; Children's Services Plan; Community Care Plan; Community Strategy; Crime and Disorder Reduction Strategy; Early Years Development Plan; Education Development Plan; Local Development Framework; and the Youth Justice Plan. To amend or reject a mayor's proposals for any of these documents, the council must resolve to do so by a two-thirds majority. This is again based on secondary legislation, in this case the Local Government (Standing Orders) (England) Regulations 2001.[20]

Exclusive powers are less easy to define, because they consist of all the powers that are granted to a local authority by Act of Parliament except those defined either as co-decision powers or as "not to be the responsibility of an authority's executive". This latter is a limited list, including quasi-judicial decisions on planning and licensing, and certain ceremonial, employment and legal decisions.

An elected mayor (in a mayor and cabinet system) also has the power to appoint up to nine councillors as members of a cabinet and to delegate powers, either to them as individuals, or to the Mayor and Cabinet committee, or to subcommittees of the Mayor and Cabinet committee. In practice, the mayor remains personally accountable, so most mayors have chosen to delegate to a very limited extent—if at all.

Local authorities in Britain remain administered by a permanent staff of chief officers led by a chief executive, who are politically neutral bureaucrats. Their powers remain unaffected by the introduction of elected mayor. Senior officers continue to be appointed by a politically representative committee of councillors, and the mayor may not attempt to influence the decision as to who is appointed (except within the committee as a member of the committee). To maintain the staff's professional and political independence, the mayor (or any other member of the council) may not personally direct any member of staff. Accordingly, an elected mayor cannot really be accurately characterised as an executive mayor, as in parts of the US and certain other countries, but more as a semi-executive mayor.

Consultations have taken place in 12 English cities due to have referendums over the introduction of elected mayors, over what powers those mayors should have, and how they should be scrutinised.[21]

List of directly elected mayors

As of 2013 there are 16 directly elected mayors in England (including the Mayor of London).

Location Local authority Post Type Mayor   Party
Bedford Bedford Borough Council Mayor of Bedford unitary authority Hodgson, DaveDave Hodgson Liberal Democrat
Bristol Bristol City Council Mayor of Bristol unitary authority Ferguson, GeorgeGeorge Ferguson Independent
Doncaster Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council Mayor of Doncaster metropolitan borough Jones, RosRos Jones Labour
Hackney Hackney London Borough Council Mayor of Hackney London borough Pipe, JulesJules Pipe Labour
Leicester Leicester City Council Mayor of Leicester unitary authority Peter Soulsby Labour
Lewisham Lewisham London Borough Council Mayor of Lewisham London borough Steve Bullock Labour
Liverpool Liverpool City Council Mayor of Liverpool metropolitan borough Anderson, JoeJoe Anderson Labour
London Greater London Authority Mayor of London English region Johnson, BorisBoris Johnson Conservative
Mansfield Mansfield District Council Mayor of Mansfield non-metropolitan district Egginton, TonyTony Egginton Independent
Middlesbrough Middlesbrough Borough Council Mayor of Middlesbrough unitary authority Mallon, RayRay Mallon Independent
Newham Newham London Borough Council Mayor of Newham London borough Robin Wales Labour
North Tyneside North Tyneside Council Mayor of North Tyneside metropolitan borough Redfearn, NormaNorma Redfearn Labour
Salford Salford City Council Mayor of Salford metropolitan borough Ian Stewart Labour
Torbay Torbay Council Mayor of Torbay unitary authority Oliver, GordonGordon Oliver Conservative
Tower Hamlets Tower Hamlets London Borough Council Mayor of Tower Hamlets London borough Rahman, LutfurLutfur Rahman Independent
Watford Watford Borough Council Mayor of Watford non-metropolitan district Thornhill, DorothyDorothy Thornhill Liberal Democrat

Ex-mayors are:

Mayoral referendums

To date there have been 47 referendums on whether to establish an elected mayor in English local authorities. Thirteen have been passed and 34 rejected by the voters.

To trigger a referendum, the normal procedure is for the council to request it, which has happened in 22 cases. In 14, electors themselves have requested a referendum by petition. In Southwark, the government forced the holding of a referendum. Councillors have had the right in law to introduce the post of Elected Mayor instead of the appointed Council Leader, by a two-thirds majority vote in Council under the Local Government Act 2000 and 2007.

"Yes" majority shown in green, "No" majority shown in red.

Local authority Date Yes Votes Yes Vote % No Votes No Vote % Turnout %
Berwick-upon-Tweed 7 June 2001 3,617 26 10,212 74 64
Cheltenham 28 June 2001 8,083 33 16,602 67 32
Gloucester 28 June 2001 7,731 32 16,317 68 31
Watford 12 July 2001 7,636 52 7,140 48 25
Doncaster 20 September 2001 35,453 65 19,398 35 25
Kirklees 4 October 2001 10,169 27 27,977 73 13
Sunderland 11 October 2001 9,375 43 12,209 57 10
Brighton & Hove 18 October 2001 22,724 38 37,214 62 32
Hartlepool 18 October 2001 10,667 51 10,294 49 34
Lewisham 18 October 2001 16,822 51 15,914 49 18
Middlesbrough 18 October 2001 29,067 84 5,422 16 34
North Tyneside 18 October 2001 30,262 58 22,296 42 36
Sedgefield 18 October 2001 10,628 47 11,869 53 33
Redditch 8 November 2001 7,250 44 9,198 56 28
Durham 20 November 2001 8,327 41 11,974 59 29
Harrow 6 December 2001 17,502 43 23,554 57 26
Plymouth 24 January 2002 29,559 41 42,811 59 40
Harlow 24 January 2002 5,296 25 15,490 75 25
Newham 31 January 2002 27,263 68 12,687 32 26
Southwark 31 January 2002 6,054 31 13,217 69 11
West Devon 31 January 2002 3,555 23 12,190 77 42
Shepway 31 January 2002 11,357 44 14,438 56 36
Bedford 21 February 2002 11,316 67 5,537 33 16
Hackney 2 May 2002 24,697 59 10,547 41 32
Mansfield 2 May 2002 8,973 55 7,350 45 21
Newcastle-under-Lyme 2 May 2002 12,912 44 16,468 56 31.5
Oxford 2 May 2002 14,692 44 18,686 56 34
Stoke-on-Trent 2 May 2002 28,601 58 20,578 42 27
Stoke-on-Trent 23 October 2008 14,592 41 21,231 59 19.23
Corby 1 October 2002 5,351 46 6239 54 31
Ealing 12 December 2002 9,454 45 11,655 55 10
Ceredigion 20 May 2004 5,308 27 14,013 73 36
Isle of Wight 5 May 2005 28,786 43.7 37,097 56.3 60.4
Fenland 14 July 2005 5,509 24.2 17,296 75.8 33.6
Torbay 14 July 2005 18,074 55.2 14,682 44.8 32.1
Crewe and Nantwich 4 May 2006 11,808 38.2 18,768 60.8 35.3
Darlington 27 September 2007 7,981 41.6 11,226 58.4 24.6
Bury 3 July 2008 10,338 40.1 15,425 59.9 18.3
Tower Hamlets 6 May 2010 60,758 60.3 39,857 39.7 62.1
Great Yarmouth 5 May 2011 10,051 39.2 15,595 60.8 36
Salford 26 January 2012 17,344 56.0 13,653 44.0 18.1

2012 referendums

Main article: English mayoral referendums, 2012

In February 2012, Liverpool City Council decided to have a directly elected mayor with effect from May 2012.[18]

On 3 May 2012 the following cities held referendums to decide whether or not to switch to a system that includes a directly elected mayor:[17]

The referendum to move to an elected mayoral system was successful in Bristol but was rejected by voters in all the other cities.

See also

  • List of English counties leaders


External links

  • Directory of current mayors
  • NLGN mayoral pages (inc. FAQ)
  • Arguments for elected mayors
  • Arguments against elected mayors
  • UK Parliament briefing paper (PDF)
  • Institute for Government mayoral pages
  • Warwick Commission on Elected Mayors and City Leadership
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