Want More Democracy? You Have A Choice!
As a result of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act, by 31st December 2010 councils operating executive arrangements must adopt either an elected Mayor – the Democratic Choice – or a strong Leader system. They both have similar powers but only one of them is accountable to you, the voter. Claims therefore that a Mayor is only suitable for large cities apply equally to the Strong ‘North Korean’ Leader and are false and misleading and designed only to protect the cozy life of majority party councillors from a democratically elected Mayor.
The Strong (North Korean Style) Leader
The strong Leader system means that the Leader is appointed by the council (in reality the ruling party) and usually can be removed by a vote of the council. The Leader is therefore beholden for his position to the largest party on the Council and so answers to them and not to you and the rest of the electorate.
Which Do Local Councillors Like?
The “North Korean” option is the one preferred by local political elites because it gives them power over the people with the least chance of effective opposition. The Leader will be selected by a few, perhaps only two or three people from the majority party, for election by the Council. He or she will be in the pocket of the local majority party and will not be an independent choice with an independent will.
They also like the Strong ‘North Korean’ leader because, as they well know, the coalition has promised legislation by the end of 2011 that will allow councils, who have the Strong Leader, to return to the current committee system, without giving you, the electorate, a vote on the matter.
The Democratic Choice
A directly elected Mayor will in all probability have required 20.000 or more votes from the voters and often a serious number of second choice votes as well. He or she will always have had to get more than 50% of the votes cast in order to win th election. The Mayor will truly be a democratic choice and because of this will have influence far beyond the local authority area.
He or she can take decisions with a Cabinet of a few councillors appointed by the Mayor. And the Mayor can appoint whoever he/she wants to, irrespective of party.
A directly elected Executive Mayor would be elected for a four year term by all residents eligible to vote in local elections.
The local authority’s “Executive” (or “Cabinet”) is made up of between three and ten councillors, including the elected Mayor.
What about our Councillors?
Elections for Councillors continue as normal. Councillors have a role in the scrutiny of the Mayor’s decisions on major issues, including the council tax and major policy decisions.
Committees of Councillors would continue on planning, licensing and regulatory functions. In other matters the Mayor is free to decide how decisions are made, and the Mayor and his Cabinet would take most decisions on a day to day basis instead of committees of councillors.
Councillors who are not members of the Cabinet would continue to have some important functions, including representing their local communities. They can monitor and comment on the performance of the Mayor and Cabinet – the scrutiny role referred to above.
- The Mayor provides highly visible local political leadership
- The Mayoral system provides a single, accountable leader directly responsible to the voters
- The mayoral system leads to faster decision making
- It gives the Mayor power to get policies into place quickly
- A fixed four year term ensures some continuity combined with direct accountability to voters
What about Independents?
Independent candidates can stand for the position. Indeed the process helps the independent candidate. Costs are reduced because all candidates’ details appear in one booklet. The voting is fairer as the voting system uses the Supplementary Vote system which requires voters to give a first and second choice . Doing this means that your votes is transferable to your second candidate if your first is not chosen . No vote is wasted!
What Have the English Democrats Done
The elected mayor for Doncaster has been since 2009 an English Democrat, Peter Davies. Without prior experience of political office Peter, an RE teacher in a local school, prepared his platform, campaigned and won despite the huge Labour majority.
His cabinet is selected solely on the basis of who will do best for Doncaster without regards to political party, gender, religion or sexual orientation. His policies are chosen only because they are good for Doncaster, not because they are English Democrat policies and in that he has the support of our party . After all the English Democrats are the party of local democracy!
The most democratic choice would be for the local authority themselves to decide to choose the elected mayor route. Some may decide against this. In this case voters can request a local referendum be held to see if the electorate wish to have an elected mayor.
The first step in this case is to get a petition requesting a local referendum on the matter signed by 5% of the local voters. The English Democrats would like all supporters of more local democracy to be involved and to this end we will be adding resources to help this happen over the next week.
In the meantime if you want more information or want to get involved please contact us