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:
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.
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.