Press release

World’s first ‘before and after’ study of the impact of a Directly Elected Mayor

16th October 2012

What impact will a Directly Elected Mayor have on the way Bristol is governed?  A team of experts from Bristol’s two universities will examine the difference that the introduction of a Directly Elected Mayor will make in what is believed to be a ‘world first’ in urban studies.

A partnership between local democracy experts at UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol will provide riveting insight into the impact that a Directly Elected Mayor (DEM) has on the governance of Bristol.

For the first time ever the transition period before and after the election of a locally elected Mayor will be subject to scrutiny and analysis in a study entitled ‘The Bristol Civic Leadership Prospects Project’ that will report findings next year.

Bristol City Council are participating in the study and are giving the researchers unparalleled access leading up to the election in Bristol on Thursday 15 November 2012.

Professor Robin Hambleton from UWE Bristol, who is leading the study, explains:

We will be asking two key questions. Firstly, what difference does a DEM make? We will survey a segment of the local population of Bristol electors and local stakeholders about their thoughts and expectations about the governance of Bristol before the election on 15 November and then, again, in the spring of 2013.

Secondly we will ask what steps can be taken to ensure that the introduction of a DEM brings about benefits and avoids potential disadvantages?

The study will throw light on whether or not the DEM model of governance actually has the desired effects – as viewed from different vantage points.  This will help local learning in the context of Bristol and the city region, and it will also provide insights that could be useful to other cities or city regions contemplating moves towards a DEM model, as well as to central government.

 By working closely with the various stakeholders we hope to learn from their experience of changing the governance of the city and to contribute ideas drawn from research on other cities.

Dr David Sweeting, from the University of Bristol’s School of Policy Studies, said:

It is important for the Universities to engage with the city of Bristol. We hope that this research will have a beneficial impact both in terms of helping the Council develop policy around the elected mayor and through helping the new Mayor with important insights that will inform and shape how they tackle the new role.

Concluding, Professor Hambleton comments:

It’s very exciting to be involved in a project that will help to inform those wishing to improve the governance of Bristol.

The research methods we are using equate to a new kind of ‘engaged scholarship’ – one that is rather different from the traditional approach to academic research. We will not be observers looking in from a distant viewpoint.  The research team will be fully immersed in the process of reshaping the way local democracy works in Bristol.  We hope that the two universities can make a useful contribution to advancing understanding of how to improve local leadership in Bristol as well as generate useful lessons for localities elsewhere in the world.

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