Should we consider a directly elected Mayor for Belfast?

Watching the Sunday Politics this morning, I listened to Sinn Fein Councillor Deirdre Hargey and DUP MLA, Gary Middleton discuss the benefits of respective City Deals was could be on their way to Belfast and Derry.

I wanted to throw this idea out into the public sphere to find out more about the process.

David Sweeting has been examining the impact of a directly elected Mayor in Bristol;

Here I discuss two findings that are likely to be of interest in the debate around the introduction of mayors in other cities. The first is that there has been a dramatic increase in the proportion of citizens who agree with the statement, ‘the city of Bristol has visible leadership’. It has risen from 24.1 per cent in 2012, before the introduction of the mayoral system, to 68.6 per cent in 2014. This is a startling rise, and provides a boost to those who argued for the introduction of a mayor in Bristol on the basis that existing city leadership lacked sufficient public profile.

The second is that there are very different views on the introduction of the mayor in different sectors of governance in the city. Our survey of civic leaders in 2012, before the introduction of the mayoral system, found that, on the whole, councillors were much less positive about the introduction of a mayor than other respondents from the public, private, and third sectors in the city. This is significant because directly elected mayors are often advocated on the basis that they will facilitate positive relationships across the city beyond the council chamber. Our research suggests that this may well be the case, but there clearly would be work to be done to convince councillors of the benefits of the system.

Now there are opponents of this approach and a very considered argument can be found here.

But for the greater Belfast region could a Mayor elected through PR-STV for a 4 year mandate be something that could help wider local governance?

Answers in the comments section please….


David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs