city mayors

‘It’s enjoyable because it’s meaningful’

Being mayor is about bringing people together, Marvin Rees tells Richard Angell

First published in Progress magazine

On an otherwise disappointing local election results night – net losses under a new leader being a first in British politics – there were a few bright spots for Labour this May. The party retained the mayor of Salford with a new and energetic candidate, Sadiq Khan became the highest-ranking Muslim politician in the western world – and Marvin Rees won the mayoralty of Bristol. He stood four years previously, and lost to former Liberal Democrat-turned-independent George Ferguson. Yale University-educated, this mixed-race guy from Bristol’s toughest estate has a higher vision for his city. It is fair to say Rees is not a very tribal politician, something his councillor colleagues have found frustrating. But he is a passionate progressive and perfect for the role of mayor: big on vision and keen to bring people together for shared solutions. Two months into the job, that big picture looms large.

‘How we untangle this challenge of doing economic development that doesn’t compound inequality, lead to gentrification, and then lead places to be unaffordable’, is the task he has set himself. He calls it ‘the golden nugget’. It is so important because the city he loves is ‘good on driving prosperity’, but recent growth has ‘compounded inequality and [Bristol has] become more unaffordable’ for many. To scale ambitious heights he is shaking up the council. (more…)

Brexit prolongs austerity but Labour’s brilliant local leaders will help communities survive

First published on LabourList

The British public’s decision to pull out of the European Union has shaken our politics and the economy. In turn the implications on our public services will catch up. And they are likely to be huge.

Mark Carney’s injection of £250bn into the economy and George Osborne’s tax break to companies has blown the public finances. But this additional spending is not the end of austerity but the prolonging of austerity. Public services will have constrained budgets for another decade longer. Just when you thought it was not possible, local councils will face even deeper cuts from central government, and services on which so many rely will come under further pressure.

Thankfully Labour councils are better led than at any point in our history. (more…)

City electors

First published on ProgressOnline

Candidates for city mayors face a breakneck selection process

While the people of London are choosing whether they want to return Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson to City Hall, the citizens of 10 of the country’s biggest cities outside the capital will be deciding if they too want to have a directly elected mayor.

As Progress has long argued, the challenges faced by Britain’s cities – low skill levels, an acute gap between rich and poor, high unemployment, underperforming schools, and too few private sector businesses – require a radical change to their governance. As in London, mayors could not only bring increased accountability, but act as a champion for jobs, growth and investment, and a powerful voice for the cities in Whitehall. (more…)