(Note: this article was written and published in 2016. Information and opinions presented herein were relevant to the time of publication)
For some lucky(!) sixth formers, the election on the 5th of May will be the first election in which they can vote. Whilst there are elections for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northerm Irish Assemblies, as well as local council elections, City Mayoral and PCC elections, the media’s attention has been strongly focussed on the London Mayoral election.
The London elections are different to the General Election voting system, with voters able to mark their first and second preference for Mayor (although they do not have to select two options). If a candidate gains more than 50% of the vote, they are elected Mayor of London. If this is not the case, the top two candidates go through to a second round and all second preference votes for the two remaining candidates are included in the count. This has meant that it is usually a second round count between the Labour candidate and the Conservative candidate.
Does the Mayor actually matter?
Whoever wins the Mayoral election will have a huge set of responsibilities for one of, if not the, greatest city in the world. Together with the 25 newly elected Greater London Assembly (GLA) members, the Mayor will have a budget of £17billion to manage and will be responsible for setting out their vision for London. This funding is used by the Mayor in the “key areas” of policing, emergency services, transport, planning, housing and the environment although these have to be set within the laws set by Central Government. Central Government is responsibly for things such as the NHS, Welfare and most forms of taxation whilst local London councils are responsibly for daily services such as rubbish collection, street cleaning, permits etc, but the Mayor can direct funding to different areas in order to promote London’s social and economic development.
The Mayor can set the annual Greater London Authority budget but he is held to account by the GLA members – they can reject and ammend his plans with a two thirds majority vote. This budget includes part of the Council Tax that is levied by local councils (although the rest of the amount charged as council tax is decided by the local councils themselves).
Whilst London generates a huge amount of wealth, 93% of taxes raised goes straight to Central Government. The Mayor of London then has the responsibility of negotiating with Central Government in order to get the funding needed to improve London’s infrastructure and provide the necessary services to Londoners.
The Mayor of London can also appoint senior members and advisers to positions in a range of areas including transport, housing, technology, emergency services and business. The Mayor is also able to sit as the Chair of TfL – a body that is incredibly important to Londoners. The Mayor can also produce a housing strategy that allows them to recommend the location, type and amount of new housing to be built. The Mayor also has the power to implement “strategic” planning which means they can give permission to project that they believe to be important to London’s development.
Whoever wins the Mayoral election on the 5th of May will have a huge amount of influence over London and will shape the future of the city for years to come. If you have the right to vote in any of the elections on the 5th of May, make sure you do your democratic duty and have your say on who will run your council, your city or your country.