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New study examines impact of directly elected mayor

16 October 2012

What impact will a directly elected mayor have on the way Bristol is governed? A team of experts from Bristol’s two universities are conducting a unique study to examine the difference a directly elected mayor will make.

The Bristol Civic Leadership Prospects Project, a study carried out by local democracy experts from the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol, is the first of its kind to scrutinise the transition period before and after the election of a directly elected mayor (DEM).

Bristol City Council is participating in the study and has given the researchers unparalleled access leading up to the election in Bristol on Thursday, 15 November 2012.

The study will survey a segment of the local population of Bristol and stakeholders about their thoughts and expectations about the governance of the city, both before the election and then in spring 2013.

It will assess what difference having a DEM makes and what steps can be taken to ensure that the introduction of a DEM brings about benefits and avoids potential disadvantages.

Professor Robin Hambleton from UWE Bristol, who is leading the study, explained: “The study will throw light on whether or not the DEM model of governance actually has the desired effects – as viewed from different vantage points.  This will help local learning in the context of Bristol and the city region, and it will also provide insights that could be useful to other cities or city regions contemplating moves towards a DEM model, as well as to central government.”

Professor Alex Marsh and Dr David Sweeting, from Bristol University’s School for Policy Studies, will also be working on the study, which uses non-traditional approaches to academic research. Rather than observing from a distance, the research team will be immersed in reshaping the way local democracy works in Bristol.

Dr Sweeting, a Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies, said: “We hope that this research will have a beneficial impact both in terms of helping the Council develop policy around the elected mayor and through helping the new mayor with important insights that will inform and shape how they tackle the new role.”