In an EXCLUSIVE post for CARDIFF EAST Conservative Assembly Member Jonathan Morgan says it’s time the Welsh capital had a directly elected mayor. Jonathan Morgan, Assembly Member for Cardiff North, was elected to the Assembly at its inception in 1999. Morgan is regarded as one of the most articulate Assembly Members currently in the Senedd.
Anyone that knows me, know that I’m passionate about the city of Cardiff. I have lived here all my life; I was born here, schooled here, I went to university here, I have worked here and I now have the great honour of representing part of the city and its residents in the National Assembly.
The city has carried with it some of the greatest historical, social and cultural achievements that Britain has ever generated; a city which celebrates its considerable past and its confidence in the future.”
We have some of the most impressive architecture of any UK city – proud castles, highlighting our Norman and Victorian era; a civic centre to remind us of past great city leadership; sporting and leisure opportunities to match the very best in the UK.
Cardiff’s description as a modern, young European capital needs continuous support. Cities don’t achieve greatness just by acquiring a description; they require leadership and dedication by individuals who have vision.
If we sit back and merely accept that the current form of local government is adequate, then Cardiff’s development will stagnate. A directly elected mayor would give Cardiffians a direct say; not just a vote for a local councillor who in turn elects the county council leader but a direct input into what direction our capital city should take.
At the very least, I firmly believe that we should be debating whether this is a route that Cardiffians wish to take.”
Don’t get me wrong, this is not an attack on Cardiff Council or local government generally. In fact, it’s a proposition to improve it. My family involvement in politics is because of local government. My grandfather served from 1979 to 1996 and then 1996 to 2004 as a city and then county councillor. My mother and great uncle represent one of the wards in my constituency. Had it not been for local government, then my own interest in politics might never have been sparked.
My point is that while people can have a say as to who represents them in their ward or constituency and what the issues that elected person should focus on, there isn’t a mechanism to engage with fundamental issues that affect all Cardiffians, like how transport for the city should operate or where major infrastructural developments like the WMC for example, should be sited.
I believe that the concept of a directly elected mayor can negate those issues because it has the potential to enable and empower residents beyond their local communities – it provides an extension to democracy. It’s a concept that allows greater engagement with individuals and communities that has never been done before in the city. It’s also a concept that has the potential to successfully link local, Assembly and national government together, encouraging greater co-operation and cohesion.
One of the most important factors for me is that it’s a concept that could revive democratic accountability, for two reasons. Firstly, the elected individual will be mandated by the majority of Cardiff’s citizens; everyone in the city will have a say about the person they want to represent them. Secondly because of this fact, they are directly accountable and culpable for the decisions or failures that occur under their administration. The public have a clear sense of who is in charge and who should be removed.”
Local government leaders on the continent and in America are held in the highest esteem for many reasons. However, one of the most compelling for me is that a particular individual who offers them self up for such an office isn’t always a politician in the conventional sense with a long political background. Michael Bloomberg, the Major of New York, may run under the Democratic banner but he is a hugely successful business man and he brings to the office a wealth of experience beyond the political sphere. Why couldn’t this be the case here? Why couldn’t we have heads of local health boards or even head teachers of successful schools running to lead our city?
I think a directly elected major for Cardiff offers such potential for the city as it would undoubtedly ensure a greater degree of strategic vision about what an expanding capital needs in the decades to come.
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Read the report in the South Wales Echo here of Jonathan Morgan’s exclusive post for Cardiff East.
‘Why are people so disengaged from civil life’ – South Wales Echo interviews Cardiff Civic Society Chair Peter Cox for his thoughts on the Cardiff Mayor debate – read it here.
Gutto Harri, the Cardiff born former BBC political correspondent, an aide to London Mayor Boris Johnson tells the South Wales Echo here that he believes Cardiff would benefit from introducing a directly elected mayor.
Cardiff businessman, Giovanni Maiacrino, has his sights set on city mayor role – read it here.
Council leader Rodney Berman insists Cardiff is thriving and there is no need for a directly elected Mayor – read it here.