Council leaflet on mayor referendum dropping through our letterboxes in next 10 days (here’s a sneak preview))

Whatever you think about having an elected mayor, the arrangements for holding the referendum are turning out to be a bit chaotic. With the vote just over six weeks away, it appears that most of us haven’t got a clue yet about what’s going on, or what’s at stake.

Well, the first bit of official information about the poll on 3rd May is going to drop through our letter boxes in the next eight days – a leaflet from Leeds City Council that’s going out to every household in the city, explaining the bare bones.

If you can’t wait till the postie delivers yours, here it is:

Deadlines

Production of the leaflet is a nice example of the fairly chaotic arrangements surrounding the poll.

The government only told local authorities that they had to send out a leaflet to every household on 3rd of this month. Since then there have been full-on discussions between the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Electoral Commission and local authorities about what the leaflet should say and who should pay for it.

The final version of the text has now been approved at a gallop, and the DCLG has agreed to pay for it.

As far as Leeds is concerned, Chief Exec of Leeds City Council Tom Riordan has now got until tomorrow morning to approve its distribution and we’ve all got to receive one by a deadline of 27th March. No time to go through the normal procedure of putting such significant change to a meeting of the full Council.

Arguments in the press or on the net?

The leaflet is, of course, only presenting the facts: whatever council officials might think personally of the idea of an elected mayor, they’re not allowed to express them in public. So, the leaflet refers us to “the internet” or “the local press” for information about campaign groups and the arguments.

That would be OK , but it doesn’t seem to be working too well so far. The Leeds District Labour Party, for example, voted against the idea of an elected mayor at a recent meeting, but I can’t find any mention of it in the press or on the internet. And I’ve written to them asking if they’d pass on the wording of what they voted for, but it seems they’re reluctant to share it.

Hey ho.

A little bit of info too that may be worth passing on: it appears that you can’t be an elected mayor and a councillor at the same time, so the leaders of our local party groups in the council –  those who have described the idea as “utter madness” and those who’ve said ‘never say never’ – will already be weighing up their long-term options very carefully as we make up our minds.

There’s been some fairly constructive debate on some of the issues around an elected mayor (money, powers etc) in the comments section of an earlier post. See here.

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11 Responses to Council leaflet on mayor referendum dropping through our letterboxes in next 10 days (here’s a sneak preview))

  1. Alison says:

    Thank you Mr Citizen. I’ve been looking for local info on this subject, to no avail. I lived in London from 1999 to 2007, so saw how voting in a new mayor there changed the city. It isn’t so much what the mayor does – they tend to have their own pet projects, after all – it is more that they are highly visible and – if the right person is chosen – really raise the profile of the city. They are sort of an ultimate, popular representative (i.e. it’s important to choose the right person!). I do feel, in general terms, that if Leeds said no to a mayor but the other big cities said yes, the city would lose out in the publicity stakes and, as a consequence, in terms of investment and culture.

    I haven’t found a clear description of the pros and cons, but this is quite a good article on the subject, if only to explain what we don’t know: http://www.guardian.co.uk/local-government-network/2010/dec/20/localism-bill-directly-elected-mayors

  2. Tom says:

    I predict a yes vote, you don’t seem to hear much about why it is a bad thing and most people would think that the London Mayor does a good job based on the headlines!

  3. bitvacuous says:

    I was at the last Leeds District Labour Party meeting and my understanding was we had a discussion about the Mayoral vote but the Vote was not about if we should have one or not. I was under the impression that the feeling in the room was that if you end up in Doncasters situation where all your elected members are powerless against 1 person it was remarkably undemocratic. The vote I was aware of was about the direction to give candidates standing in the local elections on May 3rd around elected mayors. I understand this advice has now been rendered irrelevant by guidance from the national party but that last is 3rd hand information.

    • Cheers for that bitvacuous, i must have put two and two together and made 5 when i read people at the meeting saying on Twitter: “We voted to take a position opposing an elected Mayor in Leeds in the referendum taking place on the 3rd May”. But now I see that it was just a vote “about the direction to give (labour) candidates standing in the local elections on May 3rd around elected mayors”. Was that an unspecified direction? I’m guessing not.

      Don’t you think it’s a bit bizarre that no-one appears to want to say exactly what you guys voted on?

  4. SocialAnorak says:

    little knowledge or real evidence to suggest either system is better than the other. My answer is

    Left blank awaiting further info

  5. Stephen Rennie says:

    Effective or not, directly elected executive mayors in the France and the USA are the politicians most likely to go to prison for corrupt practices. To be charitable, that could be because they are more visible to the public, but cold reality suggests it is because those who want this role tend to be just a tad venal and self-interested.

    • Venal? Self-interested? Sounds like Donnygate. No system has got a monopoly on venality.

      • Stephen Rennie says:

        True, all political systems are vulnerable to corruption and the pursuit of personal gain, but most are far more accountable day to day than directly elected mayors and few conflate policy formulation and executive powers in quite the same way. I think that is why when mayors go bad, they go so much more bad than other politicians, and get away with it for so much longer.

  6. David Fairbairn says:

    The only positive that I am aware of, in favour of a Mayor, would be a higher profile figurehead — nationally, internationally, attracting contacts from business & political sources. The Mayor would probably need power over decisions & budgets, to avoid being a figurehead not worth dealing with for investment & influence purposes.

    The dangers of Mayoral power for Leeds, over the councillor cabinet system, are outlined here: http://www.leedsne.co.uk/mayoral_referendum

    I conclude that an advancement would be to raise the profile of the council leader and maintain the current checks, balances and democratic effectiveness.
    I’m open to correction.

    • Stephen Rennie says:

      I’m not altogether convinced by the figurehead factor David, it seems to help New York and maybe London (some of the time). It certainly doesn’t help Paris. I have a feeling we get better recognition for a leader figure as LEEDS (Keith Wakefield) than KEITH WAKEFIELD (Leeds). The city has a constant energetic feel to it that an individual would find it hard to sustain without degenerating into Boris buffoonery, all right in its way, but not always relevant or even appropriate. Whatever the system adopted you are so right about checks and balances though.

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