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War of words over elected mayor bid

PUBLISHED: 19:26 10 June 2010 | UPDATED: 18:00 30 June 2010

ARGUMENTS mounted over whether Great Yarmouth should have a directly elected mayor this week after residents backed a referendum on the issue.

A petition triggering a poll was formally presented at the town hall on Monday by Labour borough councillors Michael Castle and Trevor Wainwright.

ARGUMENTS mounted over whether Great Yarmouth should have a directly elected mayor this week after residents backed a referendum on the issue.

A petition triggering a poll was formally presented at the town hall on Monday by Labour borough councillors Michael Castle and Trevor Wainwright.

The 3,800 pledges of support represented more than the 5pc of the population needed to back a vote, likely to be held this autumn.

Labour group leader Mr Castle accused the council's ruling Conservatives of 'distorting the facts' after Tory claims that the referendum would cost £40,000.

He said: “I'm not going to let the Tories get away with this rubbish - let's have a debate based on the facts. The costs of the referendum would be met by the Government not local council tax payers.

“The Conservatives are riding high in the opinion polls so why are they scared of having an election for mayor?

“We have by-elections for council seats and parliament - this would be no different.”

With responsibility for a multi-million pound budget, the mayor could appoint cabinet members from different political parties in what would be a radical change to the way our borough is run.

Deputy borough council leader Barry Stone said: “It is not the case of us not having the confidence to stand, if there is an election we will have a candidate. We are more interested in value for money and what is best for the borough.

“An elected mayor is not the most suitable system in a small local authority like Great Yarmouth where the current arrangement works perfectly well.”

Watford has had an elected mayor since 2002, with Dorothy Thornhill elected for the third time last month. A Liberal Democrat, Ms Thornhill receives a salary of £65,738. The allowance for the council leader in 2001/2002 was £16,452.08. According to official figures Watford made the most efficiency savings of any district council in the country last year.

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