Voters say ‘No’ to an elected mayor

RESIDENTS voted a resounding “no” to Great Yarmouth having the region’s first elected mayor with executive powers.

Loud cheers from people sporting both blue and red rosettes rang round Yarmouth Town Hall on Friday afternoon as returning officer Richard Packham announced the results of the referendum: 15,595 No votes to 10,051 Yes votes, with 291 spoiled ballot papers.

The current borough mayor Michael Jeal was prominent among those clapping the decisive rejection of an elected mayor, a change that would have seen the ceremonial position held by him disappear.

Mick Castle, who has led the campaign for an elected mayor, which started with the raising of a 3,500-signature petition to trigger the referendum, described the 10,000 Yes votes as a “creditable total”.

He said: “I still think bringing in an elected mayor is the way forward to reinvigorate local politics and the low turnout in this election demonstrates the need for that.

“Although both local parties were opposed to it, nationally, Labour introduced elected mayors and the Tories are pressing ahead with introducing them in other towns and cities.”

He said he was confident the system would have worked well in Yarmouth.

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Outgoing council leader Barry Coleman, who has been selected to become the next ceremonial mayor and will be formally elected on Monday, had led the campaign for a No vote.

He had highlighted the cost of the elected mayor’s salary – at least �50,000 – and the expense of holding a referendum and any future mayoral election at a time of economic hardship.

He had also said the loss of the ceremonial mayor’s position, with its tradition and role in promoting charities and the work of voluntary groups, would have been a terrible shame.

Following the result, he said: “I am absolutely delighted with the result which shows the importance people attach to the town’s heritage and history.

“It rules out any prospect of an elected mayor for a long period of time – I am more than delighted that I won’t now be the last ceremonial mayor.”

Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said: “I am not surprised by the result because I have struggled to find anyone who wants an elected mayor. This lets the council focus on doing the job rather than focusing on an ego trip for a couple of people.”