Local authorities are forever saying they want more powers and more freedom. They often turn out to be less good at explaining what exciting things they would like to do but which they are unable to pursue at present. In a similar vein, a reason for lack of enthusiasm for Mayors is the absence of a story about the kind of transformational change that only someone with the personal mandate of a Mayor would be able to achieve.
Consider these points:
Then add some context
Put these together and the case grows for what might be called ‘experiments in living’. The idea is that local leaders float inspired ideas for how their place might choose to be very different from other places, not just in the policies they pursue, but the goals they set.
Two small examples are the fat-busting Mayor of Oklahoma who decided his city would lead American in losing weight and Transition Town Totnes, which is exploring alternative economic models with widespread community engagement and commitment. In both cases the model of change relies on a high level of public commitment to the goal and its delivery; there is no question of politicians being able to do it on their own.
Writing in the week of local elections I am aware that every Party claims to have a local vision but generally when these are big they are vague and when they are specific, they are small (all three major Party leaders’ speeches at their conference this year will be characterised by this dispiriting big/vague concrete/small dichotomy).
Instead we need local leaders to start to challenge their communities with big, concrete, long term aims. Here is the kind of thing that might cut the mustard:
Just imagine how much more interesting and creative England would be if every major town and city had set itself a significant and ambitious goal of this kind.
Actually, I don’t think these are the most exciting of ideas so I challenge my reader to come up with her own.
Fabian Wallace-Stephens (Foresight Lead)
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