The role and engagement of Mayors in local food policy groups

25 February 2019

The last ten years has seen a proliferation of food policy groups (ie: local food partnerships) at the local government level in England, made up of actors from the public sector, civil society and (sometimes) private food businesses.

Meanwhile, changing local government structures in England mean that many major cities are now led by a directly-elected Mayor -- and the Mayors of Bristol and London have been supportive of the food policy groups in their respective cities.

Taking these cities as case studies, Jess Halliday and David Barling address the following questions in a book chapter entitled 'The Role and Engagement of Mayors in Local Food Policy Groups: Comparing the Cases of London and Bristol' published in 2018: 1) How useful is the support of the Mayor to a food policy group?, and 2) What factors determine how useful a Mayor can be?

The chapter makes a number of recommendations for actors in food policy groups that are seeking Mayoral support:

  • Establish the full scope of the Mayor’s role, powers, authority, and influence—including the limits—so as to identify ways in which (s) he might help advance the food agenda.
  • Weigh up the pros and cons of potential institutional homes of the food policy group vis-a`-vis the Mayor. Is it better for the food policy group to be located within the Mayor’s office, within a local government department or team, or outside local government structures?
  • Be aware of any strings to the Mayor’s support, such as need for work plans or public messages to conform to his/her political agenda.
  • Plan alternative ways of working to overcome any barriers encountered as a result of the Mayor’s involvement—such as placing certain projects that are at odds with Mayoral priorities in the hands of civil society, or ensuring independent communication channels that are free from political spin.
  • Consider the interest and knowledge of food issues of the current Mayor, how far the food agenda corresponds to his/her priorities, and how likely the priorities are to change.
  • Consider the role of party politics, such as how far a Mayor must adhere to national party lines, or whether his/her affiliation creates resistance to projects (s)he supports among other influential politicians.
  • Identify ways to institutionalize/embed the food policy work under a supportive Mayor, to reduce the risk it will be abandoned under a future elected leader.

This book chapter is no longer available for free online but if you would be interested in reading it, please email Jess Halliday


Leon Ballin
Sustainable Food Cities

Sustainable Food Cities is a partnership programme run by

Soil Association

Food Matters

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Sustainable Food Cities is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation