Have the Tories got it wrong over elected mayors?

Have the Tories got it wrong over elected mayors?

And what about the plan to give them more powers?

One announcement at the Tory conference has the side effect of creating more elections which are likely to lead to more betting markets during a period when these will be quite scarce.

A big betting occasion will be twelve referenda, all taking place on the same day, in leading English cities on whether to have an elected mayor or not. The idea of a “big bang” like this seems designed to heighten the media attention and get bigger tiurnouts.

Then, assuming that some of them opt for the proposal, there will be elections for the directly elected mayors themselves.

But the Tory plan goes further than that. The aim is to to add dramatically to the Mayors’ range of powers to include all the functions currently carried out by the council chief executives. This was presented as a cost-cutting measure because it could mean that fewer CEOs with their six-figure salaries would be needed.

I feel very uncomfortable about this because it’s like combining the role of PM with that of the head of the civil service thus taking away some of the normal checks and balances.

It will also accentuate the move to depriving individual councillors from having any serious role whatsoever being reduced, in the main, to one of scrutiny. I, for one, cannot see the point of anybody putting themselves forward. All the big decisions are taken by the mayors who will now have a lot more on their plates.

It’s interesting that the move to having them has stalled. The last local authority referendum to agree to such a position was four years ago.

Judging by the levels of turnout in the local referenda the public don’t seem to be that interested. Where these election have not been held at the same same as other votes the turnouts have been pitiful. Sunderland and Ealing recorded a 10% participation rate, Southwark’s was 13% and here in Bedford it was 15%.

These have taken place in 37 areas and in only twelve of them has the idea been accepted by those who have voted.

Meanwhile my local mayoral by-election campaign in Bedford hots up with Martin Bell coming to fly the flag for his independent candidate followed by Nick Clegg and Vince Cable for the Lib Dem. In the betting Ladbrokes have CON 4/5: LD 5/4: Bagchi (IND) 8/1. I think that this is a fair reflection of the chances.

Mike Smithson

Comments are closed.