City mayors have a defined term of office to make a real impact but when you look to history, the greatest leaders are not those that cut the ribbons of the new shiny city hall, but rather those that build a legacy or ‘The Cathedral Effect’
It’s an exciting time to be a new city mayor with the formation of a new government, greater devolved powers, a regionalised agenda, coupled with an industrial strategy that emphasises the importance of cities and placemaking. We are seeing infrastructure, jobs and housing all becoming pivotal to the development of cities. So what advice should we be giving mayors to ensure they leave a lasting legacy for the cities of the UK and what ingredients are needed to enable this to happen?
Cities for citizens that drive a true sense of future place.
Leadership is often talked about and you certainly know it when you see it, but equally feel it when you don’t. Good and effective leaders also need to have followers and will attract good people including confidants, movers and shakers from across the public and private sectors. They come together to provide support, counsel and constructive challenge as well as great ideas and a strong network. City mayors have a defined term of office to make a real impact but when you look to history, the greatest leaders are not those that cut the ribbons of the new shiny city hall, but rather those that build a legacy or ‘The Cathedral Effect’. In other words, building or planning something of substance that will benefit their cities and their communities in the future despite possibly not even being able to see the results in their lifetime.
This is all about having and setting the long-term vision and objectives for the city – a 20 or 30 year vision for the community, its economy, environment, culture and skills, as well as its potential to change, evolve and develop. The city needs to be futureproofed with innovation and change in mind while building on its sense of place and history. In turn, this needs to be set alongside clear objectives and outcomes to help drive social and economic progress. Implementing lessons from elsewhere and making them relevant and meaningful are important aspects to consider in setting an ambitious, but realistic vision.
Once the vision has been set, its then about consultation and collaboration by getting buy-in from those living and working in the city through listening and understanding what they need and want from the vision. Cities need to place citizens first, interpreting the requirements and balancing perspectives of business and communities, young and old, developers and environmentalists as well as innovators and historians. Then comes collaboration – leaving the all-important mayoral ego at the door and opening a city up to working with, and learning from, others. Some great examples exist with the Scottish Cities Alliance where seven cities came together to create an eighth. For a city to be sustainable and resilient for the future it needs to encompass everyone.
The next steps are to articulate a compelling business case that will release funding from government and will both incentivise and attract financing from the private sector. The key ingredients here are clarity and confidence and setting out risk appetite that will drive strong social and economic impact. Having an ambitious vision is one thing, but there has to be the finance in place to deliver it.
Finally, it’s about delivering on promises, being honest and building trust. That relies on good and effective governance, focused on building a strong legacy where personal career capital will have driven direct and indirect benefits for the city, region and country. Good governance is key to this by managing risk and outcomes, driving delivery and providing assurance to stakeholders.
Creating a mayoral legacy is all about creating a sense of place. A well-run city enables and supports the economy around it through good infrastructure investment, attracting businesses for job creation and facilitating social infrastructure through housing. Get it right and mayors will be remembered for establishing their cities on a new level, otherwise they risk being seen as simply be passing through.
Amanda Clack joined EY as a partner in August 2015 as the Head of Infrastructure within its advisory practice for UK & Ireland. Prior to this she was a partner at another of the ’big four’ accounting firms, where she led on property, real estate and construction for consulting, as well as consulting across the South East of England. She is a chartered quantity surveyor and Fellow of RICS. Amanda is past vice chair of the Management Board; led the review on Election and Selection; and also established the UK and Ireland World Regional Board. She has been an external examiner/lecturer and is a member of the Surveyors Livery Company.
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