Wounded, but not dead: Executive Mayoralty may still bounce back with a little help from its friends
As the celebrations wind down at the stunning reversal of Mayor Bullock’s determination to close down the Ladywell Pool to make way for a new school, it may be tempting to think that this type of borough management is on its last legs: Didn’t people power triumph in the end? Indeed, it was a great result for democracy but it is not the beginning of the end. The Mayor has a formidable ally coming to his rescue: Central government.
Last month, Mr. Bullock and fellow Mayors from across the country, including Ken Livingstone Mayor of London, were present at a seminar hosted by none other than the Prime Minister himself. Tony Blair said it was a bit odd that the Mayoral project had not been more widely adopted across the country. He added that wherever mayors had been introduced it was striking there was no serious popular call from the local community for the experiment to be abandoned (come on Nick Ingham, you’ve got to do a Max Calo!) Our Mayor and his brethren called for more power to be given to them in the area of neighbourhood police budgets, bus services, local primary care trusts, employment and economic regeneration companies. It seems likely that Mayors, like Mr. Bullock, will probably get that power. This was highlighted in a white paper published the following week entitled Strong and Prosperous Communities - The Local Government White Paper. Published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the paper sets out a vision of empowering authorities. Among the lofty goals is this aim: If we are to continue to improve public services we need to give local authorities and their partners the freedom and powers to meet the needs of their communities and tackle complex cross-cutting issues like climate change, social exclusion and anti-social behaviour (page 11 volume 1).
It seems to me that Lewisham has a lot to worry about. It was hardly encouraging to learn (see my post of November 2) that the pro-Mayor and well-funded think tank, the New Local Government Network, has our own Mayor Bullock as a Board member. Now he has the support of central Government to boot as well. This was a man who said he believes that as Mayor he has the freedom to act independently of the council as a service provider. Mr. Bullock may have lost the battle over Ladywell Pool but has powerful support for the war that lies ahead: Full executive control over Lewisham: Be afraid. Be very afraid.