Elected mayors will be nothing short of local dictators

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From: Councillor Elizabeth Nash, City & Hunslet Ward, Leeds City Council.

I WAS cheered up when I read your Editorial (Yorkshire Post, March 1) with which I totally agree. However, there was a comparison between our great northern cities and that of London. London differs in that it is made up of many small councils.

The London Mayor acts as a co-ordinating influence amongst the councils and has distinct different powers, for example, transport and traffic management throughout the capital and, of course, the staging of the Olympic Games. Whether one regards Boris Johnson as charismatic depends on one’s political view. But both Ken Livingstone and Boris are, indeed, ex-MPs.

The most disturbing aspect is the misleading question in the May referendum which asks whether the councillors should elect the leader of the council or the public, ie for a mayor.

The mayor will not be the leader of the council. Currently, the council leader is answerable on policy to all the other elected councillors. Sometimes, he or she cannot get their own way as the other councillors reject or modify his or her proposals. A mayor will not be answerable to the council and will be nothing short of a dictator.

If a mayor is elected, then the role of lord mayor will disappear. There is a great tradition in Leeds and other cities for the lord mayor to be apolitical.

They have represented the Cities extremely well and, at the same time, have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities.

A lord mayor is not paid a salary. An elected mayor in Leeds will be paid £100,000 plus.

This hair brained system has been proposed by those in Government who know nothing about local government and how it does and has operated in the past. It was our cities which built our hospitals, our schools, our libraries and cleared away the slums.

It was our cities which brought clean water to their citizens and it was our cities which set up gas and electricity companies.

It was our cities which formed police forces and fire brigades.

Slowly but surely, successive governments have taken away many of the powers and services from local government.

This last policy is to remove democracy at a local level.

I appeal to all to vote against an elected mayor.

From: Edwin Shirn, Ilkley.

YOUR editorial “End mayoral vote ‘bullying’” (Yorkshire Post, March 1) was clearly another shot on behalf of those council leaders who are opposed to “localism” being in the hands of the voters.

We have already had a lot of blather from councillors and MPs who are opposed to the idea that there should be one person given the power to be effective in local government, to be directly elected by us at the grass roots, and thus be answerable to us for what they do between elections.

Here in Bradford Met District, in 2001 the three main party leaders were very “democratic”. When 43,000 people voted, and 52 per cent of them wanted Bradford District to be run by a directly-elected mayor, those three party leaders were so “democratic” that they pushed aside the vote for a mayor. They told the Government that they would not have a directly-elected mayor – and the Blair government backed down.

No council leader in Bradford is ever elected by us. They are not even nominated for office as councillor except by small groups of activists.

What democracy in local government needs is a directly elected mayor, facing re-election after three years, elected on a short programme of promises that we have voted for and can judge them by, and with their own progress-chasers to get those promises carried out.

So let us vote for that kind of executive mayor – and let us try from the grass roots to save democracy in this country.