Great Yarmouth elected Mayor debate

“IF it’s not broken don’t mend it”. Never has this well-known adage been more appropriate than with the issue of a directly elected Mayor for Great Yarmouth.

At a time when every company, charity, local authority and family is having to make savings it seems bizarre that anyone should be advocating vast extra expense for no practical advantage.

The referendum on May 5 is costing the council tax payer �51,000 to administer, even though it is being held in conjunction with local elections. If the referendum is successful a further �100,000 will need to be found for a Mayoral ballot. This expense alone equates to 3pc on our council tax bills

Unlike the current leader, an elected mayor would be a paid appointment of approximately �60,000, plus pension.

For example the salaries of similar sized authorities with elected mayors are: Hartlepool �90,000, Watford �60,000 and Mansfield �53,000.

Initial information distributed by Councillor Mick Castle to encourage people to sign the petition stated: “A hands-on elected mayor will directly lead to the down-grading of the existing managing director and the loss of a senior council officer.”

This has not happened in any of the above authorities where chief executives exist on salaries in excess of �100,000 and in the case of Hartlepool, �168,000!

Most Read

Cllr Castle justifies such expense by stating the post will be an onerous one. However, an elected mayor would only be responsible for 10pc of your council tax expenditure as police and County Council services totalling 90pc would be outside his control.

An elected mayor is undemocratic and constitutionally flawed.

Our democratic system is based upon local residents electing their representatives for a larger decision-making body, whether that is a council or parliament. We do not elect our prime minister. That would be a president.

The potential tensions between councillors and a directly elected mayor are enormous, which would lead to poor decision-making, as happened in Doncaster. It would also inevitably mean the shrinking of a councillor’s responsibilities and marginalising the local electorate they represent, a move very unhealthy for democracy.

An elected mayor would signal the end of the current civic mayor whose traditions go back centuries. Our Civic Mayor is the Borough’s First Citizen who acts in a non-political role representing all citizens.

The centuries old regalia and pageantry would be lost and worthless. Charities and voluntary organisations would suffer financially as the current Civic Mayor’s prestige plays a vital role in promoting voluntary work throughout the Borough.

A combined role of Leader and Mayor means one person would be unable to complete all current engagements attended by the Civic Mayor.

The present system refreshes the Mayoralty every year, alternating between the political parties. This gives it a new perspective and impetus which would be lost with a long term professional mayor.

Financially, democratically and socially it makes sense to Vote No.

Vote Yes- By Cllr Mick Castle

ELECTED mayors are very much the future for Britain’s major town and cities.

They have a special mandate from the people that ordinary council leaders chosen by their fellow councillors just don’t have.

There are 13 so far across England and a 14th – Leicester will be electing their first Elected Mayor on May 5.

If a Yes vote is achieved in the Elected Mayor Referendum in Great Yarmouth on May 5, then all 70,000 local voters will get to vote in May 2012 for an Elected Mayor to lead the borough council.

Currently the leader is chosen by as few as 20 councillors.

The new elected mayor will combine the roles of leader and civic figurehead but will be elected directly by the public rather than indirectly by a political party.

He or she will directly appoint the douncil’s cabinet and will chair its meetings.

The elected mayor will represent the council at all key civic events and will be assisted by the council’s speaker, who will chair meetings of the council and undertake visits and functions that the mayor is unable to attend.

It is envisaged that the new mayor will wish to designate annual charities and that this and other much-loved customs will be continued within the new format.

Experience elsewhere suggests that there will scope for savings and more focused decision-making.

The number of borough councillors could be reduced from 39 to 27 and these could, in future, be elected together in an “all-out” election every four years.

In the Great Yarmouth context, a “hands-on” elected mayor will directly lead to the down-grading of the existing managing director post and to an end to political patronage by way of responsibility allowances given to cabinet support members.

Opponents of an elected mayor have speculated fancifully on what he or she might be paid?

The position is obviously an onerous one and will be a full-time position.

An appropriate scheme of renumeration will be fixed by an independent body to ensure that this adequately reflects the nature of the elected mayor’s duties and responsibilities.

This is however likely to be significantly lower than the salary applicable to the council officer post to be cut from the council establishment as a result of the changes.

From the outset, our campaign has been totally non-party-political and our campaign committee proudly boasts supporters of all the main political parties and independent-minded folks without any political affiliations at all.

Unlike our opponents who prefer not to run a formal No campaign we are holding a Elected Mayor Referendum Rally in Yarmouth tomorrow, Saturday evening, from 7.30pm at the Residence night club.

Independent Mayor of Mansfield, Tony Egginton, and a number of local speakers will explain what it will mean for Yarmouth – and to have their questions answered.