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Local and municipal government
City Mayors describes and explains the structures and workings of local government in Europe, The Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa

Local government in The Americas:
| Argentina | Bolivia | Brazil | Canada | Caribbean | Chile | Mexico | Peru | USA | Venezuela |

Local government in Europe:
| Albania | Cyprus | Czech Republic | France | Germany | Gibraltar | Greece | Iceland | Ireland | Italy | Malta | Portugal | Russia | Spain | UK1 | UK2 |

Local government in Asia and Australia
| Australia | China | India | Indonesia | Japan | Malaysia | Philippines | Singapore | South East Asia | South Korea | Thailand | Turkey |

Local government in Africa
| South Africa |

Code of Ethics

May 2020: The City Mayors Foundation was established in 2003 to promote, encourage and facilitate good local government. To strengthen local government further, City Mayors has instituted a Code of Ethics for city leaders who wish to perform their duties beyond all reproach. More

US local government under
spotlight following COVID-19

June 2020: The US$2 trillion CoronaVirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by the US Congress on 30 March 2020, includes financial aid for US state and local governments to cover costs associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. The CARES Act provides all states with direct funding based on population. However, only cities and counties with populations greater than 500,000 are eligible to receive funding directly from the federal government. Smaller local governments must negotiate with their state governments for a portion of the funding the state received. Many US mayors are questioning the population threshold for direct funding. MORE

Mayors in Europe
Powers & Politics

August 2019: A plethora of city leadership models exist across Europe, depending on history and political culture, though the challenges facing urban areas are mostly identical. While in France, Spain, Greece and Portugal the mayor is head of the party list on the council, in Luxembourg and the Netherlands mayors are appointed by the central government for a six-year term. In Germany, mayors are directly elected, as are all metro mayors in England. In many European countries mayors enjoy considerable powers and their responsibilities cover a wide array of day-to-day activities as well as longterm projects such as health, education, policing, environment and culture. 2019 EDITION

Women in US local government:
Cities where women thrive in politics

September 2017:
After earlier this year in San Antonio, the only female mayor of a top-ten US city was ousted by a male rival, Forth Worth became the largest American city with a women at the helm. There are now only two women in charge of any of the 20 largest US cities – in Fort Worth (TX) and Charlotte (NC). But while the number of female mayors among American cities with more than 200,000 residents is still pitiful low, women are increasingly successful in being elected to city councils. New research conducted by City Mayors shows that while just under 20 per cent of the largest American cities have female mayors, more than 32 per cent of municipal councillors are women. MORE

Polish local government
and mayors of largest cities

June 2017: Since 1999, Poland has been divided into provinces, counties and municipalities. The country has currently 16 provinces, 379 counties, including 65 cities with county status, and 2,479 communes or municipalities. Some 61 per cent of Poland's population of 38.6 million live in cities. The country's capital Warsaw is home to 1.7 million people, while there are four other cities with populations of more than 500,000. Eleven cities have populations of between 200,000 and half a million. MORE

French Presidents and
Prime Ministers learn their political
trade in local government

22 May 2017: It is almost obligatory for French presidents, prime ministers and cabinet ministers to start their political careers in local government. Since the formation of the Fifth Republic in October 1958, five of France’s eight heads of state were mayors prior to being elected to the country’s highest office. Jacque Chirac was Mayor of Paris for more than 18 years. Other former presidents such as Giscard d’Estaing, François Mitterand, Nicolas Sarcozy and François Hollande all served their political apprenticeships in local government. Only the Fifth’s Republic’s first two presidents, Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou and the current president Emmanuel Macron did not serve as mayors. MORE

History and many post-war reforms
shape local government in the UK

14 May 2017: There is no single pattern of local government in the United Kingdom. Instead arrangements vary in the four ‘home nations’ of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, Wales and urban England, with the exception of London, single-tier unitary authorities provide all local services, whereas non-metropolitan England is served by a two-tier system split between district and county councils. FULLY UPDATED 2017 EDITION

English local government
and directly elected mayors

9 May 2016: All but 16 of the 326 councils in England are led by a Council Leader elected by their fellow councillors. Since 2002 a small number, as well as Greater London, have been led by mayors elected directly by local voters. Most of the elected mayors in England have responsibility for all local services, with two district council mayors responsible for only environment, planning and housing. All 17 elected mayors are elected on four year terms by the instant run-off Supplementary Vote. There are no elected mayors in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. View complete update following May 2016 elections

Albania strengthens
democracy by reforming
local government

12 April 2016: Less than a year ago, Albania had one of the most centralized governments in the world. Now, local governments are the most important service providers. The intergovernmental system has been upended by design, and momentous political, financial, institutional, and territorial changes are being managed simultaneously by new mayors, new city councils, and new laws governing municipal administration. From now on, the performance of Albania’s entire public sector likely will be determined by what happens at the local level. MORE

Local government in Kosovo:
Elected mayors are the key

13 December 2014: Kosovo became the most recent territory in Europe to claim the status of nation state when it declared independence in 2008. The credibility of any democratic nation depends on the strength of the institutions it builds, notably its capacity to meet citizens’ demands for service delivery and accountability. To this end, Kosovo has embarked on a process of enhancing the performance capacity of government by decentralizing power from the national level to the municipal level. Decentralization is considered a tool to deliver results shaped by local needs and market realities, engage citizens in decision making, and bridge ethnic divisions. And directly-elected mayors assume a primary role in helping ensure accountability, transparency and responsibility. MORE

Local government in Ireland
British with a distinct Irish accent
12 August 2014: Local government in the Republic of Ireland predates its national political structures, with the constitutional arrangements laid down under British rule in the late nineteenth century remaining in place. Ireland’s local government arrangements consisted until recently of 29 county and county borough councils with a set of smaller town and in some cases borough councils at the sub-tier. A big bang reorganisation in 2014 saw this number streamlined and flattened into 31 all-purpose local authorities through a series of mergers, in response to Ireland’s recent economic and political crisis. MORE

The City of London offers on one square mile
history, feudal governance and global finance

12 August 2014: The landmarks of the area covered by the historic City of London Corporation are known to many – St Paul’s Cathedral, the Old Bailey, the ‘Gherkin’ and soon the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ and the ‘Cheesegrater’, to name but few – but less is known about the Corporation itself. The City of London is often confused with Greater London (the area covered by the Greater London Authority), but the two concepts are indeed very distinct and separate. More

Mumbai in urgent need of reforms
to governance and management

10 December 2012: Mumbai is one of the world's 10 most populous cities and the most populous, and wealthiest, city in India. Yet over 42 per cent of its people live in slums. The megacity has lost the capacity to deliver public services, because of negligence as well as insufficient financial and physical resources. Almost two-thirds of revenue is spent on staff and less than one third on services. There is now an urgent need to consider other management options and changes to governance. More

Following Indonesia’s 1998 revolution
local democracy is witnessing a rebirth

11 April 2012: The fourth largest country in the world, covering most of the Malay Archipelago and bridging South East Asia and Australasia, the Republic of Indonesia has made the transition to full democracy after three decades of post-colonial dictatorship. After years of centralisation, Indonesia is now witnessing a rebirth of local democracy and is served by 33 provinces and the capital city Jakarta. More

History and many post-war reforms
shape local government in the UK

10 April 2012: There is no single pattern of local government in the United Kingdom. Instead arrangements vary in the four ‘home nations’ of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, Wales and urban England, with the exception of London, single-tier unitary authorities provide all local services, whereas non-metropolitan England is served by a two-tier system split between district and county councils. More

Czech municipal government
and mayors of largest cities

17 January 2012: In the Czech Republic members of municipal councils are directly elected using a proportional electoral system. Every citizen of the Czech Republic over eighteen years of age has the right to vote and to run for municipal office. The term of a municipal council is four years. Mayors are elected by and responsible to their councils. More

The participation of citizens
in German local government

21 September 2011: For historical and constitutional reasons, the organisation of the local community in Germany is first and foremost the domain of local people. Through political and civic engagement of citizens in their community, municipalities embody the living, breathing foundation of the state. The local polity has at its core a system of representative democracy, which traditionally forms the main area of political participation. More

London boroughs reluctant
to encourage parish councils

16 April 2011: Since 2007, neighbourhoods in London have the right to form councils responsible for their own community governance. These parish councils, which already exist elsewhere in England, have substantive powers and serve populations of a just a few thousand. There appears to be a political consensus on the value of these councils, should communities decide they want one. However, there is apparently no political will to systematically create them across London. More

Government fragmentation is holding
back America’s metropolitan regions

1 April 2011: What is a city? Defining New York, Chicago or Los Angeles is easier said than done. Where the border between a dense urban industrial, cultural and political center and the outside world was clear a century ago this is no longer the case. Take any major American metro area today and there will be both a central city – the political entity of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles that once was the metropolis – but also an urban landscape of millions of people that begins wherever the city limit ends. More

Rochester’s mayoral election reflects
power relationships in American cities

31 March 2011: William A Johnson lost his bid to return as mayor of Rochester, New York, in a special election on 29 March 2011. The result was not surprising considering that Johnson ran on a third-party line and only four of the 1,265 mayors of US cities with more than 25,000 residents were elected without the endorsement of the Democrat or Republican parties. But the Rochester election, more than most local elections, exposed the power relationships that operate in nearly all American cities. More

Mexico’s provincial mayors are
restricted to one three-year term

14 August 2010: The social and political culture of authoritarianism in Mexico appears to be fissuring. The first small crack was, perhaps, the Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1917, which also saw the birth of the party (the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI) that dominated Mexican politics until nearly the beginning of the twenty-first century (and still does, in many respects); the most recent, and by far the most significant, was the creation in March 1994 of the Association of Mexican Municipalities (AMMAC). More

England’s elected mayors
have performed rather well

21 January 2010: The debate surrounding the introduction of elected mayors in UK local government is one which has polarised both local government itself and the academic and policy communities the most among all others. Fewer topics elicit such vexatious argument and yet evidence-based debate is thin on the ground. What is needed is less fixation on constitutional issues and more on the difference mayors are actually making in their communities. Here we present our findings based on performance management ratings. More

Powerful-mayor government
does not serve public interest

8 December 2009: Following the conviction of Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon on one count of embezzlement, David B Levy argues that to a greater degree than many people in the city realize, the structure of Baltimore’s municipal government contributes to the stream of painful news stories about how ‘inside’ influence affects government decisions. More

A review of the pros and cons of increased
interlocal cooperation in local government

17 November 2009: What characterizes the local governance system in the United States is not only fragmentation of governmental units, but increasing fragmentation of service delivery. This has been more extreme in metropolitan areas owing to the rate of population growth following the end of World War II. In her article, Mayraj Fahim argues that, however, now is the time for inter-governmental cooperation and collaborative service delivery. More

Federated local government offers advantages
over more centralised or fragmented systems

10 November 2009: The collective experiences of Europe, South East Asia (in particular China), Canada, the UK and the US offer instructive lessons on how to unlock the potential of substantive federated local government systemic frameworks - as well as offering demonstrative evidence of either successful or problematic adaptations. More

Multi-tier local government systems
adopted in many parts of the world

13 August 2009: Anyone living in a region where there are counties, or similar counterparts with a different terminology, and municipal units, is familiar with what can be termed a federated (multi-tier) local system. However, what is not commonly known is that from the 1950s onwards, integrated federated frameworks were, and still are, being increasingly adapted for local regions in many countries. More

British Columbia’s local government
system relies on mutual co-operation

28 June 2009: Since the 19th century regional planning and cooperative efforts have taken root in Canada, Europe, the United States and to a lesser extent in other developed countries. A major source of inspiration has been the growth of city regions and their importance to the national economy. Urbanization, which took on a new dimension after the second world war as a result of rapid growth in suburban communities, led to more substantive and sophisticated efforts than previous examples. More

Local government in India still carries
characteristics of its colonial heritage

23 May 2009: While India, like many other regions, has always had local councils of some sort, the mechanisms in existence today are rooted in the period during which it was a colony of the United Kingdom. A major foundation of the British roots of Indian local government was Lord Ripon’s resolution of May, 1882, on the subject of local self-government covering the structure and establishment of local bodies, their functions, finances and powers. This is the root of local self-government in post-Independence India. More

With a little help
from our friends

19 February 2009: The challenges affecting the balance between central and local governments are common to all societies. Local councils the world over are concerned about finance, performance management and structural reform. However, recent evidence shows that Britain is one of the most centralised in the developed world when compared to its peers. More

Mayors from Africa, Asia
The Americas and Europe

29 January 2009: While urban settlements have been around for millennia, increasingly cities are beginning to acquire their own narratives and political importance, not only as places to live but also as drivers of national social values and economies with their own global networks. Though the agglomerative effects of cities as part of globalisation is widely understood and universal, city leadership models remain as diverse as ever, but with common trends on each continent: Africa, Asia, The Americas and Europe.

Arguments for and
against term limits

10 November 2008: Term Limits can be a productive if not blunt instrument despite the powerful passions they may evoke. Term limits are currently a revived topic for action at both state and local level in the United States. New York City and San Antonio are two major cities where this subject, the bane of elected officials and favored by their electorate, is once again on the front burner. In February 2008, California voters, rejected a move to alter the term limits earlier imposed by them, while in October 2008, New York City Council voted in favor to extend term limits from two to three consecutive terms of fours years for elected officials including the mayor. More

Stuttgart shows regional
consolidation can work

9 November 2008: If you want to see how regional consolidation works when it really works, take a look at Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg, south-western Germany. A few years ago, Stuttgart needed a new exhibition center. The regional government, which has authority over economic development and land use policies, decided that the perfect location would be a big plot of land right next to the airport. The municipality that is home to the airport objected. The regional authority refused to back down. It took the municipality to court and won. More

Elected mayors are more
effective, says US study

16 August 2008: An historical study of mayors in US big cities finds that mayors who are popularly elected are more effective than those who come to office through other means. The study, by Andrew D. McNitt* of Eastern Illinois University, examined the performance in office of 846 mayors of 19 US cities -- including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco, Boston, and Houston – between 1820 and 1995. More

UK should make elected mayors
focus of local government reform

29 June 2008: Wrenching power from central control is proving difficult. Despite a massive improvement in the quality and performance of English local government over the past decade, cross-party political goodwill for devolution, and managerial consensus that centralism cannot cope with the detailed challenges of frontline service delivery, there remains a disinclination to delegate power. Local councils and councilors remain stubbornly unfashionable among the national political classes, and there is a wariness and lack of trust acting as a roadblock to decentralisation. More

Local as well as state government must
address the issues facing large US cities

12 February 2008: The state of Massachusetts is rapidly losing its labor force through migration. The problem, which peaked last year, is a lack of affordable homes – with Boston being the primary engine in this human ‘hemorrhage’. Similar population shifts, with Massachusetts representing the most extreme example, are driven by a continuing need for suitable housing. The Great American Migration – a Forbes article in July last year – observed: “If jobs and strong local economies were the sole motivators, Los Angeles would not be hemorrhaging population at a faster rate than Detroit, and Chicago would not be losing people more quickly than Pittsburgh.” More

Cities are the most neglected
layer of American government

1 January 2008: Eighty per cent of Americans live in metropolitan areas comprised of hub cities and surrounding suburbs. Metro economies account for 87 per cent of America’s total economic output. Central cities, in other words, are major generators of wealth that attract business, labor, tourists, and investment. One might expect that the health of central cities would be at the forefront of debate during the presidential election campaign, yet candidates pay little attention to cities. More

English council leaders strengthened
by new local government legislation

13 November 2007: In October 2007 the UK government’s Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act was finally approved by Parliament and overhauled the system of governance in most English councils, seven years after the landmark Local Government Act, which introduced the elected mayor model for the first time. The new Act requires council leaders to be installed for four years, thus almost creating a Swedish-style indirectly elected mayor. More

Louisville Metro has shown other regions
how mergers can change balance of power

24 December 2006: The merger of Louisville (Kentucky) with neighboring Jefferson County has created much excitement in US regions looking at this option to improve their local conditions. The Louisville merger, which took effect on 6 January 2003, after voter approval in November 2000, has gained much attention. It was the first large consolidation of an American city with its surrounding county in 30 years, when Indianapolis and Marion County (Indiana) merged. More

Council managers are running
more and more American cities

In an age when local governments in general, and urban local governments in particular, have been subject to increasing fiscal stress as a result of receding federal and state aid together with a more regulatory environment that has made municipal management more complex, the council-manager system has risen to dominance in the United States. In a council-manager system, policymaking is vested in elected representatives and management in an appointed professional manager. More

Rochester gives its citizens
the power to shape their city

One of the boldest and most successful experiments in citizen empowerment in the United States has been underway in Rochester, New York, for over ten years. Through the Neighbors Building Neighborhoods, or NBN, process, Rochester residents plan for the future of their city and help establish the city’s budget priorities. More

Report recommends elected
mayors for Britain’s big cities

Greater Birmingham and Greater Manchester should have elected mayors who control spending on transport, regeneration, skills and the power to raise business tax according to a recently published report. It recommends England’s two biggest ‘city-regions’ should be in charge of their own economic development. It argues for around £1.2 billion a year to be devolved from regional development agencies, transport boards and the Learning and Skills Council. More

UK government studies
the case for city regions

A London-based think tank with the ear of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has published proposals for a city region-based system of local councils in England, which have attracted the support of government and opposition alike. The New Local Government Network was originally established in 1998 to encourage the new Labour government to bring about elected mayors as means to invigorate local democracy and to quicken the pace of modernisation in other areas. More

US voters are not convinced that
big is better in local government

Federal and state aid to US towns and cities is dwindling in an age when costs are rising for local government. Increasingly communities are looking to the consolidation mechanism as a way of achieving efficiencies of scale in response to citizen demands for services. However, voters are more often than not reluctant to approve mergers between neighbouring communities. More

New relationship needed between
big cities and provinces in Canada

The digital revolution and the rise of the information economy, coupled with vastly expanded global trade and international economic competition, has vastly increased the economic importance of Canada’s biggest cities. It is time, therefore, for a new intergovernmental focus – exploring how Canadian big cities fit into the political fabric of the country in the 21st Century and how the relationship between big cities and their provinces needs to be renewed. More

Karachi’s federated structure has led
to more responsive city government

Karachi, Pakistan, with its 14 million inhabitants, is the largest city by population with a federated city government structure. The federated city system was implemented in Karachi over a three-year period - from 2001 to 2003 - and has been followed by other cities in three different regions of the world, including Birmingham (UK), Los Angeles and Montreal and, more recently, Baghdad. More

Demands for governance reforms
in London hit by partisan backlash

The Commission on London Governance was formed in 2004 with the remit to examine the workings of all aspects of government in the capital and recommend an outline for reform. Since then the 2004 Greater London Authority elections have intervened and the subsequent reduction in Labour representation saw the Commission lose its chairman and reference to consider the future of the 32 London Boroughs, but it has continued to examine the status quo and hear evidence from a number of key groups. More

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