Fringe Box



Letter: Voters Will Suspect An Elected Mayor Would Have Too Much Power

Published on: 23 Mar, 2016
Updated on: 23 Mar, 2016

mayorFrom Keith Childs

Former Mayor of Guildford

I wish to comment on one aspect of the budget announcements which is the Chancellor’s statement that more areas of the country are to have directly elected mayors.

He has previously made similar announcements about the “Northern Power House”.  These appear to be edicts declared at the whim of George Osborne himself as I do not believe the issue of directly elected mayors has been discussed in the House of Commons.

This concept was introduced by a Labour government and it was not popular locally or nationally, as is evidenced by the fact that only 23 authorities out of 353 have elected mayors.

At least when the concept was introduced the government legislated that whether or not such an election would be held would be decided locally following a local referendum triggered by a petition.

But this seemed to have thrown overboard when the Chancellor of the Exchequer decreed that elections for a mayor had to be held in England’s largest cities. So much for “localism”.

When I had the privilege of serving as Mayor of Guildford I was surprised at the level of esteem which this post and its non-political nature held in the eyes on the public.  I remind everyone that Guildford has had a mayor since 1362.

The election of an executive mayor may well mean that all this tradition is lost.  Furthermore people are generally suspicious about placing so much power in the hands of one man.

If the petition produced by dubious means in Guildford leads to en election here I feel confident that it will be rejected by the electorate.  However the whole thing may well turn out to be a waste of time and money as George Osborne may dictate otherwise.

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Responses to Letter: Voters Will Suspect An Elected Mayor Would Have Too Much Power

  1. Gordon Bridger Reply

    March 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Keith Childs is quite right – what is the point of electing councillors at all if one elects a mayor?

    We are supposed to have a Government which is encouraging local democracy but then imposes targets on our council expenditure so local councils are not allowed to raise Council Tax by more than two, just increased to four, per cent each year.

    So here we are in wealthy Guildford in danger of losing a number of cultural facilities because we have a ceiling on our expenditure. Do you know how much the limit is per year on Band D? It’s £5. Well done George Osborne, one of the most affluent communities in Britain cannot spend more than an extra £5 a year. Dotty.

    Oh yes, and congratulations to the Chancellor on his 0.7 % GNP aid target, the only target he has ever met. What a pity that most of the £12 billion spent on foreign aid goes on grants to corrupt Governments (over £3 billion) which cannot be audited and another £5 billion goes to international organisations who did not ask for it, and do not need it. But it allows David Cameron to strut the world stage being virtuous.

    George Osbourne could easily solve his current problems by reducing his grant to the World Bank to £1b from £2.25b without taking it from the poor. But oh dear, the PM would lose face internationally although no one thanks him but the big international charities who now get huge grants from the Government.

    Is this competent Government?

  2. Stephen Mansbridge Reply

    March 24, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    It is worth looking at the Government’s guidance for directly elected mayors. The authority of a directly elected mayor other than the mayor of London, which is a special case, is carefully controlled by a laid down governance structure. There is no impact on the civic mayoralty, which remains with all its traditions.

  3. Martin Elliott Reply

    March 24, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Why not look at those other London and other Boroughs, Towns, and Municiple Authorities who have directly elected Executive Mayors?

    I believe some seem to work quite well, others were taken to court and deemed corrupt, the mayor removed.

    Of course, the later would never happen in Guildford.

  4. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 24, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    The duties of an elected mayor must surely rule out, to a large degree, the present duties of the mayoralty as we know it.

    Perhaps the question should now be put: do we need, or can we now afford, a mayor whose duties now are just ceremonial, as the office has become in recent years?

  5. Pauline Surrey Reply

    March 24, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    So what will be the point of the civic mayoralty?

    We don’t need an elected mayor. Full stop. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And we don’t want to open the way for ego trippers to get themselves elected. Which will doubtless be the case.

    Power corrupts, etc etc. We love our present system just as it is.

    Anybody found any good reasons why we should have an elected one?

  6. David Roberts Reply

    March 25, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    The fundamental issue here is: what is politics for?

    The Juneja/Mansbridge view seems to be that it is to throw up a strong leader who will get things done.

    My own view is that its purpose is to resolve differences through open debate, compromise and, if possible, consensus. That is slow and frustrating, but at least means that decisions, once taken, are likely to command wide public support. It means that decisions stick.

    The craving for a strongman is an infantile response to complexity. As we have seen in Tower Hamlets and elsewhere, it leads to nothing but problems: cronyism, corruption and poor decision making. No wonder Canterbury and Fylde in Lancashire have reverted to the tried and tested committee system of local governance.

  7. Andrew Whitby-Collins Reply

    March 28, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    After all too brief an absence, does former councillor Mansbridge’s return to the public arena through his comment above, on the vexed subject of an elected Mayor for Guildford, give credence to the view that the petition organised by his business partner, the convicted forger Monika Juneja was the first step in Mansbridge’s campaign to be the elected mayor?

  8. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 29, 2016 at 9:51 am

    We don’t need An elected mayor. At best it is more unnecessary expense and at worst it creates a position to do things we are not likely to want.

    When so called governments of regions were openly put to the vote they were rejected with contempt.

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