Electing mayors is not only dangerous but dictatorial

Have your say

From: Coun Mark Dobson (Lab), Garforth and Swillington Ward, Civic Hall, Leeds.

i AM writing in regard to the proposal by the Government for an elected mayor of Leeds.

By simply grafting an expensive new system onto the existing framework, the Government will not improve the way that local government works for the people of Leeds.

Despite Government rhetoric, a mayor does not come with the guarantee of additional powers. A mayor can do no more for a city in terms of job creation, transport or economic development than the current council leader. Indeed, negotiations about a City Deal for Leeds, whilst still ongoing, demonstrate that the current council leader is already actively engaged in bringing inward investment to the city.

If all 10 cities who have had a referendum imposed upon them elect a mayor, this region will have three expensive elected mayors in a 10-mile radius competing against each other for inward investment and undermining the Government’s aim.

An elected mayor is a very expensive option for Leeds at a time when public funding is being drastically reduced in most other areas. Typically the position of elected mayor attracts a salary of around £150,000. That is more than three times the level of allowances awarded to the current leader – for no additional benefit.

If a mayor is introduced and proves to be a poor choice, there is very little anyone can do to remove that person for their four year term in office.

Currently the council constitution enables the council to remove a poor or failing leader. You only have to look to Doncaster, where the mayoral system is already in place, to see the damage an elected mayor can cause.

It has been suggested that the selection of a council leader is undemocratic. A leader – like the Prime Minister – is a democratically elected individual who is nominated by other publicly elected representatives. If that system is good enough for Parliament, why is it not good enough for Leeds?

The current commitment of the council and its leader to driving forward the city’s ambitions is evidenced in part by its development projects – such as the Arena, Trinity and Eastgate.

It will be creative partnership arrangements like this between the public, private and voluntary sectors that will determine this city’s future success – not an elected mayor.

I was delighted to read (Yorkshire Post, April 5) of the growing swell of sensible and rational opposition from the captains of industry to the proposed referendum on elected mayors but very troubled to read in your Editorial that you had been won over by the honeyed words of entrapment (and succumbed to the veiled threats).

It is highly unlikely that all the voters in these potential areas will fall for this superficial inducement and lose their sovereignty and strong democratic control of their councils and so the Yorkshire cities of Wakefield, Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford will be able to stand strong and independent together to give an effective “Voice of the North” which, together with Newcastle and Manchester, would form a formidable force in Whitehall.

From: Coun Dale Smith (Con), Wharfedale Ward, Bradford Council.

HOWEVER imperfect the current system, proposals for an elected mayor are unwise in that they reduce democracy at street level and open the door to the possibility of a four year straight-jacketed rule by a political apparatchik, a superficial but charismatic personality, or even more worryingly to someone who only represents a narrow, sectarian slice of society. The situation in Doncaster, to say nothing about the extraordinary result in the Bradford West By-election, emphasises just how dangerous the proposition of an elected mayor could be – the prospect of someone like the newest MP let loose with almost untrammelled power scares me stiff.

From: JW Buckley, Aketon, Pontefract.

I INITIALLY thought that city mayors was change for the sake of change. Careful reading of your news reports now lead me to the conclusion that something more sinister is afoot. There is to be a direct link between the Prime Minister and these city mayors. Think about this direct link, and you will come up with one conclusion: dictatorship.

That is what the referendum is about. Are we going to vote in an effective dictatorship?