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Letter: A Mayor for Surrey and Sussex is More Dangerous Than An Elected Mayor for Guildford

Published on: 13 May, 2016
Updated on: 13 May, 2016

mayorFrom George Potter

Many local people are concerned about the petition to have a referendum on putting all political power in Guildford borough in the hands of a directly elected mayor.

They’re right to be concerned: a directly elected mayor would be untouchable between elections and would effectively be an elected dictator with all decision making resting entirely in their hands.
Say what you like about the flaws of the current system, at least it means that a bad council administration can have its decisions scrutinised and blocked by our elected councillors.
However, at least if the referendum goes ahead we’ll all be able to decide for ourselves whether we want an elected Guildford mayor or not.
Unfortunately, however, Surrey County Council, along with East Sussex, West Sussex and George Osborne, appear to be conspiring to force an elected mayor on all of us without a referendum.
Last year Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex county councils published their plans for a “Three Southern Counties” devolution deal which would put planning and various powers from central government placed in the hands of an unelected combined authority and, as is a condition of every devolution deal, a directly elected Mayor for the entirety of Surrey and Sussex (minus Brighton who have sensibly opted out of the deal).
These plans are going ahead without public consultation or much media attention. I doubt even a tiny fraction of people in Surrey and Sussex are aware of them.

Yet under the plans being advanced by Surrey county council we could all have a powerful mayor foisted on us without us having any say in the matter.

If anyone thinks an elected mayor for Guildford would be unaccountable and remote, putting too much power in the hands of one person then just imagine how much worse those problems would be with a mayor whose remit stretched from Camberley to Hastings.

Devolving power from central government to local communities is an idea I fully support. Indeed, it’s long overdue.

But for Surrey County Council and its Conservative administration to sign us up for an elected without even asking us first is far too high a price to pay.

This should be far more concerning than the possibility of a referendum on an elected mayor for Guildford where at least we’d get the final say.

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Responses to Letter: A Mayor for Surrey and Sussex is More Dangerous Than An Elected Mayor for Guildford

  1. John Ferns Reply

    May 13, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    It would be interesting to have the views of the four GBC councillors who represent Guildford divisions on Surrey County Council: Cllrs Brett-Warburton, Ellwood, Goodwin, White and Searle on this development, and indeed the GBC Executive.

  2. John Perkins Reply

    May 14, 2016 at 10:20 am

    George Potter is absolutely right.

    In 2004 people in the north east voted overwhelmingly against having a regional assembly. It was felt that this was a reasonable reflection of public opinion at a national level. Now it seems this region might get one anyway, but without the trouble of voting.

    The three councils correspond to the region UKJ2 (which also includes Brighton and Hove) in the EU Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS – yes really). Coincidence perhaps.

  3. Fiona White Reply

    May 14, 2016 at 11:18 am

    In response to John Ferns, I am not in favour of elected mayors and, if the campaigners succeed in getting a referendum in Guildford, I will be campaigning against.

    The idea of an elected mayor for Surrey and Sussex is ridiculous, so far as I am concerned. We have seen from the recent PCC voting how difficult it is to have an effective election across the whole of Surrey. I would be even more difficult for people to have enough information about each candidate for a mayor of a three county council area.

    The idea that the councils should work together to save on back room costs is very sensible, especially while local authorities are under so much financial pressure.

    I am very much in favour of powers being devolved to the most local level wherever it is practical. The trouble is that this government is so obsessed with elected mayors that it wants to impose them as a condition of handing down powers, without even giving the electorate the choice by way of a referendum.

    Fiona White is the Lib Dem county councillor for Guildford West

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