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Referendum for elected mayor

PUBLISHED: 21:00 03 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:57 30 June 2010

VOTERS will decide whether Great Yarmouth should have a directly elected mayor after residents backed a referendum campaign.

A petition triggering a poll is to be formally presented to the town hall on Monday after the target of 3,500 pledges of support was reached.

VOTERS will decide whether Great Yarmouth should have a directly elected mayor after residents backed a referendum campaign.

A petition triggering a poll is to be formally presented to the town hall on Monday after the target of 3,500 pledges of support was reached.

But the battle is just beginning, with the ruling Conservative group on the borough council pledging to campaign against an elected mayor.

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.

Jubilant campaign organisers, Labour councillors Michael Castle and Trevor Wainwright have spent the last seven months collecting signatures to gain the support of 5pc of the population needed to hold a referendum.

That is set to take place in the autumn - if the petition is judged above board by council chiefs - with a mayoral election likely next May if the vote is in favour.

Labour group leader Mr Castle said: “This campaign has been run on a non-party basis, it hasn't got support of either the local Conservative or Labour parties. All parties nationally support directly elected mayors, but it is not so popular with the politicians in our own back yard.

“I have always favoured a directly elected mayor, the public chooses who runs the town rather than councillors - it is more democratic.

“The thing about Yarmouth is that people identify with the place and see themselves as quite separate. There is a strong affiliation with the area, so it is quite an attractive prospect.

“The coalition government is fast-tracking mayors in England's 12 largest cities and Yarmouth is bigger than a number of places that already have directly elected mayors, such as Hartlepool and Bedford.”

Amongst those backing the campaign is Ralph Childs who runs a chain of Yarmouth newsagents.

However, local Tory councillors are resolutely opposed to the plan claiming it would be a waste of money.

Deputy borough council leader Barry Stone said: “The proposal has no support at all in the Conservative group. Elected mayors are fine in large metropolitan and unitary councils, but in smaller councils like Great Yarmouth it is not cost effective.

“It would cost £40,000 for the mayoral election and £40,000 for a referendum and places the decision-making in the hands of one person.

“We will oppose the proposal and put all the facts and figures before the public.”

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