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Australian Mayors: What Can and Should They Do?

  • Year: 2012
  • Author: Sansom, Graham
  • Publisher: Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government
  • Published Location: Sydney, NSW
  • Country: Australia

Recent decades have seen significant developments in the role of mayors across the world. These developments have mirrored the widening international discourse on local governance and civic leadership, and are part of broader changes sweeping through local government.

Australian local governments have been subject to wide‐ranging reforms that have addressed structure and efficiency, strategic planning, asset and financial management, community engagement and accountability, and corporate governance. However, little attention has been given to how the intended direction of such reforms interacts with frameworks for political and community governance. This contrasts markedly with the consistent focus on trends in local politics evident in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe. In those countries particular attention has been given to the importance of mayors as civic leaders, and there has been extensive debate about, amongst other things, how the role of mayors should be structured and evolve, as well as the relative merits of different models of governance.

This paper seeks to fill that gap – at least in part. It builds on recent practice and debate in Australia, New Zealand and England to explore a possible Australian model for what might be described as a 'semi‐executive' mayor: one with more responsibilities and greater authority than is generally the case at present, but who remains subject to a 'separation of powers' between the political realm of policy and strategy on the one hand, and the management realm of administration and program implementation on the other.

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