• George Oliver

Event: Did Leicester Lead in electing its Mayor?

The view of the Guardian's leader column on 17 April 2011 was that Leicester's move towards Elected Mayor may be the shape of things to come nationwide.

Ten years on and it hasn't played out quite like that - but things may be changing again with Levelling Up.

The expert panel at our Leicester Business Festival event on 9 November discussed the first decade of elected mayor in Leicester in the context of business and investment.

Last year's sold-out event at the festival looked at how the emerging Build Back Better agenda might support the city.

This year again saw 1284 director George Oliver introduce, while co-organiser Rory Palmer - the former deputy mayor and MEP - chaired a wide-ranging discussion.

In (broad) summary:

  • agree with the model or not, the role has enabled a more businesslike approach in decision-making. Examples given during the event by the city's Elected Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and former city Inward Investment Director Helen Donnellan demonstrated investment that would not have happened without a political leader with an executive mandate

  • the role has enabled the Elected Mayor to forge a consistent long-term vision outside of pre-existing political cycles and offers stability needed to bring together multiple agencies

  • the role enables more innovative decision-making and a more nuanced approach to risk.

Helen, now Director of Business Engagement at festival sponsor De Montfort University, described how investment analysts often start by examining the local political leadership (alongside ONS, workforce, universities and supply chain etc) when considering investment.

Therefore, access to senior political leaders with the authority to make political decisions supports inward investment.

So did Leicester Lead in 2011?

The panel's view was that it did - although fewer other cities followed than the Guardian had expected (read the article at: https://lnkd.in/dTVDpcnd)

Now, with the Levelling Up White Paper imminent, things may change again.

As noted by researcher (and panellist) Dr Kate Broadhurst, a lecturer in International Business Innovation and Strategy at Loughborough University, Levelling Up is currently vague - but its regional governance agenda could soon become a whole lot clearer.

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