Evaluating the Bristol One City Approach

In this Opinion piece for Bristol 24/7, published on 26/4/21, Robin Hambleton suggests that the Bristol One City Approach to city governance has brought about many benefits.  He argues that, whist this collaborative way of responding to the challenges facing Bristol can be improved, it is important to remember that it represents a significant advance on previous approaches to city governance.

New book on Cities and communities beyond COVID-19

Authored by Robin Hambleton a new book – Cities and communities beyond COVID-19. How local leadership can change our future for the better – includes a chapter discussing the Bristol One City Approach in some detail.  Published in October 2020 this book suggests that successful city strategies now need to address four major challenges at once: the COVID-19 health emergency, a very sharp economic downturn arising from the pandemic, the climate emergency, and deep-seated social, economic and racial inequality.  For more information see:


New research report examines Mayoral governance in Bristol

In a referendum held in May 2012 the citizens of Bristol voted in favour of introducing a Directly Elected Mayor model of governance for the city.  As part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas a new report providing the latest assessment of this important innovation will be launched at the Bristol Old Vic on 17 March 2020.  Written by Dr David Sweeting, Professor Robin Hambleton and Dr Thom Oliver, this third Policy Report from the Bristol Civic Leadership Project will provide an independent assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the model of mayoral governance as implemented in Bristol over the last eight years.

Details of the launch are as follows:

Date: Tuesday 17 March 2020.

Time: 6.00 to 7.30pm

Location: Coopers’ Hall, Bristol Old Vic, King Street, Bristol, BS1 4ED

The launch is free but anyone wishing to attend needs to register with the Festival.  Please click here:



Sharing understanding of mayoral governance

The Newham Democracy and Civic Participation Commission invited Robin Hambleton to provide evidence about the strengths and weaknesses of the mayoral model of governance to an Evidence Hearing held in Newham on 29 January 2020. Like Bristol, the London Borough of Newham has a directly elected mayor. Newham_Democracy_Commission_social_sharing Rokhsana Fiaz, the current mayor, established this independent Commission to examine the performance of the mayoral model and, in addition, to explore ways of strengthening resident engagement in the borough. Robin explained how the mayoral model in Bristol has resulted in a dramatic increase in the visibility of city leadership and answered questions about the way mayoral governance in Bristol has evolved in the period since 2012. The Newham Commission is expected to publish its report in March 2020. For more information on the Commission visit: https://www.newhamdemocracycommission.org/ 

What have directly elected mayors ever done for us?

Event at The Foundation, central Bristol, 6/11/19, 6pm

There are now 25 directly elected mayors in the UK, with the prospect of more to come. Bristol now has two directly elected mayors, one who heads Bristol City Council, and another who leads the West of England combined authority. Drawing on research conducted locally, nationally, and internationally, this interactive event will advance understanding of the impact of the introduction of directly elected mayors in English local government. It includes the following speakers:

  • Arianna Giovannini, Institute for Public Policy Research and De Montfort University
  • Baroness Barbara Janke, Member of the House of Lords and former Leader, Bristol City Council
  • Alessandro Sancino, The Open University, and former politician
  • David Sweeting, University of Bristol
  • Chair: Thom Oliver, University of the West of England

This event is free to attend but booking is required. Please register here, via eventbrite.

‘What have directly elected mayors done for us?’ is one of a series of events organised under Thinking Futures, which shares and celebrates research undertaken in the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Law.

How much should local elected representatives be paid?

Dr Thom Oliver was recently invited onto the Emma Britton Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Bristol on Tuesday 3rd September to discuss the proposed increase in salaries for Bristol’s Directly Elected Mayor and Bristol’s local councillors.

elected-officialsThom discussed how the proposed salary compared with other bigpolitical roles, and mayoral roles in the UK, including how the independent remuneration committee had benchmarked against roles of a similar size and scale. The original mayoral salary was benchmarked against that of a Member of Parliament, and Thom discussed that within the private sector a leader managing an organisation of equivalent size and scale to Bristol City Council in terms of staff, budget and revenue could expect a significantly higher salary. Thom also highlighted that even with the increase in the councillor allowance to around £13,000 given the scale and size of their role (a recent audit suggested councillors work around 25 hours per week in their councillor role) councillors were earning around the national living wage or less. This poses a significant question in terms of are we paying our councillors enough, and what are the implications of this salary for the types of people that put themselves forward to be elected?

The full recording, available for around 30 days on the BBC Sounds app can be accessed here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07klm6q with the segment on the proposed mayoral and councillor salary increases beginning at 2:06:25.

How innovative is Bristol’s One City Plan?

Launched at a City Gathering in January 2019 Bristol’s One City Plan presents a long-term vision for Bristol covering the period to 2050.  In a short article, first published in The Planner on 28 March 2019, Robin Hambleton offers a commentary on the key features of this new, strategic initiative.bristol-one-city-plan-circle-imagev2

Advancing the role of universities in local problem-solving

The University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, Bristol are working closely with the Bristol City Office to enhance their contribution to the governance of Bristol and the Bristol city region.  The latest iteration is the co-organisation of the Bristol Forum. This important civic event, to be held on 29 March 2019, is designed to advance the problem-solving capacity of the city.  Here, in an article first published on the UK higher education website, Wonkhe, on 14 March 2019, Robin Hambleton explains how civic leaders in Bristol are drawing lessons from the imaginative leadership shown by universities in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.atlanta


Local leadership is the answer to populism

It is distressing to report that two of Bristol’s most respected civic leaders have received death threats in recent weeks.  Mayor Marvin Rees, who is mixed race, and Deputy Mayor Asher Craig, who is black, have both made reports to Avon and Somerset Police, and a 27 year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated harassment.  Here in this post we do not want to dwell obristol-one-city-plan-circle-imagev2n these shocking incidents.  Rather, we want to draw attention to the strengths of Bristol’s leadership and highlight the launch of a new and ambitious collaborative effort.  Launched at a City Gathering on 11 January 2019 the One City Plan maps out a strategy for Bristol for the period through to 2050.  In this article, first published on the Local Government Chronicle website on 21 January 2019, Robin Hambleton suggests that local leaders can make a positive difference to the trajectory of their city.

Can place-based leaders deliver progressive policies?

The US mid-term elections indicate a troubling increase in the already well-known political divide between urban and rural areas in the USA.  Put simply, rural areas backed the Republicans and cities and suburbs supported the Democrats.  In this article, first posted on the Open University Place-based Leadership website, Robin Hambleton examines the recent US election results and considers the possibilities for progressive place-based leadership.