The Bristol Civic Leadership Prospects Project

Project details

Full project title: The Bristol Civic Leadership Prospects Project

Duration: September 2012–December 2012

Project leader for SPE: Professor Robin Hambleton

Other UWE Bristol researchers: Joanna Howard

Research partners/collaborators: Professor Alex Marsh and Dr David Sweeting of the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol.

Read the project report

Project summary

In a referendum held on 3 May 2012, the citizens of Bristol voted in favour of a Directly Elected Mayor (DEM) to lead the city by a margin of around 5,100 votes. From a turnout of 24%, 41,032 people voted in favour of a mayor, while 35,880 voted against. The election of the new mayor takes place on in November 2012. It follows that, in a very short period of time, the governance of Bristol will be changed dramatically.

A report assessing The Prospects for Mayoral Governance was published in March 2013.

This research project involves researchers at UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol working very closely together. It aims to address two important questions relating to the future leadership and governance of the city:

  • What difference does a DEM make?
  • What steps can be taken to ensure that the introduction of a DEM brings about benefits and avoids potential disadvantages?

To answer the first question, we are carrying out a ‘before and after’ assessment of the governance of the city. The study will throw light on whether or not the DEM model of governance actually has the desired effects – as viewed from different vantage points.

Such evidence will have value, not just in assisting local learning in the context of the City of Bristol, but also in providing insights that could be useful to other cities or city regions contemplating moves towards a DEM model. The findings of this evaluation will be of interest to central government and others interested in improving the effectiveness of local governance.

The research team will address the second question by working closely with the various stakeholders to learn from their experience of changing the governance of the city and to contribute ideas drawn from research on other cities. This involves an action/research methodology in which the researchers engage with those involved in the reform effort to help the process of discovery and lesson drawing.

The research project involves working closely with Bristol City Council and other stakeholders in the governance of the city.

The project applies ideas relating to place-based leadership that were developed in a previous project carried out by researchers in SPE. The Public Sector Innovation and Local Leadership in the UK and the Netherlands project examines the role of civic leadership in advancing the cause of social inclusion.

Project contact

For further information on the project, please contact Professor Robin Hambleton (

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