English mayors
Research by Andrew Stevens

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Local government
in England

24 September 2016: All but 16 of the 326 councils in England are led by a Council Leader elected by their fellow councillors. Since 2002 a small number, as well as Greater London, have been led by mayors elected directly by local voters. Most of the elected mayors in England have responsibility for all local services, with two district council mayors responsible for only environment, planning and housing. All 17 elected mayors are elected on four year terms by the instant run-off Supplementary Vote. There are no elected mayors in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

There are 326 municipal units in England, consisting of all-purpose single-tier London Boroughs (32, as well as the City of London Corporation), metropolitan boroughs (36) and unitary authorities (56), and 201 non-metropolitan districts existing below 27 upper-tier county councils. In some cases non-metropolitan districts can be known as borough or city councils, while some London Borough, metropolitan borough and unitary councils can also be known as ‘city’ councils. The single-tier councils all have the same responsibilities but their designation reflects particular waves of reorganisation: London Boroughs (1965), metropolitan boroughs (1986) and unitary authorities (1995-1998, 2009). Non-metropolitan districts perform mainly environmental, planning and housing functions in contrast to the all-purpose authorities that also provide education and social services.

In the majority of these 326 councils, all but 16 are headed by a Council Leader elected from among the council (previously annually, since 2010 for four year terms). All councils are elected on four-year cycles but the type of elections (all out, half of seats or third of seats) is determined by each council, leading to a variety of election types across England (except in London and Metropolitan Boroughs, which work on a single fixed all-out cycle).

The directly elected Mayor of London (since 2000) is included among England’s elected mayors, but as the Greater London Authority (GLA) is a strategic regional body which does not provide local authority services, he is considered separately for most other purposes.

Under the Local Government Act 2000, any local council in England could hold a referendum on the introduction of a directly elected mayor, either by citizen petition or council decision. Since the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, councils have been allowed to introduce the system without a referendum, so far only two (Leicester and Liverpool) have done so. Stoke on Trent, which introduced the system in 2002, was the first to abolish it by referendum in 2008, as it was attributed to the poor governance in the city (alongside other issues). In 2012 Hartlepool followed suit as a result of a referendum initiated by citizen petition, with the council being run under the previous committee system from May 2013. A similar referendum in neighbouring Middlesbrough in 2013 saw the mayoral system retained however. During the 2016 local elections, voters in North Tyneside also voted to retain the mayoralty, while in Torbay a similar poll saw a vote to end the mayoral system from 2019.  The elected mayor cannot also be a member of the council (as an ordinary councillor) he or she leads.

The UK’s previous Conservative-led coalition government legislated for referendums to be held in May 2012 in England’s 10 largest cities (Birmingham, Manchester etc.) on the introduction of elected mayor posts, with only Bristol assenting to the proposal. It also introduced directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners to replace England’s police authorities (previously appointed boards) from November 2012. In London the Mayor now performs this particular role.  Ahead of a planned election for a city regional Mayor of Greater Manchester in 2017 (alongside other new 'Metro Mayors' elsewhere in England), the 10 local authority leaders of its Combined Authority (GMCA) can select an Interim Mayor until direct elections take place.

There are no directly elected mayors in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, where the devolved administrations have chosen not to introduce the system. Local councils in Scotland are presided over by either a Provost or Lord Provost (from French prévôt) and in Wales and Northern Ireland by a Mayor or Lord Mayor. All such posts are ceremonial however with Council Leaders acting as executive head of the administration and elected by councils on an annual basis.

Elected mayors in England
Mayor (Mr, Mrs)
Profile &
(Popl: 155,700) www.bedford.gov.uk (Unitary Authority - Borough)
Dave Hodgson; Mr Elected 2009; Re-elected 2011 and 2015; Next elections 2019 IT professional and lecturer;
Party: Liberal Democrats
(Popl: 428,200)
(Unitary Authority - City)
Marvin Rees; Mr  Elected 2016; Next elections 2020 Journalist, public official; Party: Labour
(Popl: 70,600) www.copeland.gov.uk (District Council)
Mike Starkie; Mr Elected 2015; Next elections 2019 Financial services;
Party: Independent
(Popl: 291,600) www.doncaster.gov.uk (Metropolitan Borough)
Ros Jones; Ms Elected 2013; Next elections 2017 Former councillor and public accountant;
Party: Labour
(Popl: 212,200) www.hackney.gov.uk (London Borough)
Philip Glanville; Mr Elected 2016; Next elections 2018 Former councillor and housing adviser; Parliamentary researcher
Party: Labour
(Popl: 294,700) www.leicester.gov.uk (Unitary Authority - City)
Peter Soulsby; Mr Elected 2011; Re-elected 2015; Next elections 2019 Teacher and Member of Parliament (2005-11);
Party: Labour
(Popl: 261,600)
www.lewisham.gov.uk (London Borough)
Steve Bullock; Mr Elected 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 - present. Next elections 2018 Political adviser;
Party: Labour
(Popl: 445,200)
(Metropolitan Borough - City)
Joe Anderson; Mr Elected 2012; Re-elected 2016; Next elections 2020 Social worker;
Party: Labour
Popl: 7.75m)
www.london.gov.uk (region)
Sadiq Khan; Mr Elected 2016; Next elections 2020 Lawyer; Member of Parliament (2005-2016);
Party: Labour
(Popl: 100,600)
www.mansfield.gov.uk (District Council)
Kate Allsop; Ms Elected 2015; Next elections 2019 Former councillor and community leader
Party: Independent
(Popl: 139,000
www.middlesbrough.gov.uk (Unitary Authority - Borough)
Dave Budd; Mr Elected 2015 ; Next elections 2019 Former Deputy Mayor; businessman
Party: Labour
(Popl: 249,500)
www.newham.gov.uk (London Borough)
Robin Wales; Mr Elected 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 - present. Next elections 2018 Telecoms engineer;
Party: Labour
North Tyneside
(Popl: 196,000)
www.northtyneside.gov.uk (Metropolitan Borough)
Norma Redfearn; Mrs Elected 2013.
Next elections 2017
Party: Labour
(Popl: 229,000)
(Metropolitan Borough - City)
Paul Dennett; Mr Elected 2016. Next elections 2020 Call centre worker; Assistant mayor Party: Labour
(Popl: 134,000)
www.torbay.gov.uk (Unitary Authority)
Gordon Oliver; Mr Elected 2011; Re-elected 2015; Next elections 2019 Real estate and surveyor;
Party: Conservative
Tower Hamlets
(Popl: 220,500)
www.towerhamlets.gov.uk (London Borough)
John Biggs; Mr Elected 2015: Next elections 2018 Former council leader and London Assembly Member
Party: Labour
(Popl: 80,000)
www.watford.gov.uk (District Council)
Dorothy Thornhill; Mrs Elected 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 - present. Next elections 2018 Teacher:
Party: Liberal Democrats

Labour – centre-left;
Liberal Democrats – centrist;
Conservative – centre-right;