Friday, 27 April 2012

An Elected Mayor in Wakefield? No!

On Thursday 3rd May voters in Wakefield (and several other cities across the UK) will go to the polls to decide whether they want an elected mayor in their area. After some slight wavering on my original verdict of 'No' I've come to the conclusion that I was certainly right in the first place. My instincts told me an elected mayor would be a pointless and expensive waste of time in Wakefield and I'd like to explain why. All figures are from the 20th April edition of the Wakefield Express.

  • We have no idea of the powers an elected mayor would have. No specifics have been given about the powers that will be given to an elected mayor except that they won't be as extensive as Boris Johnson's powers in London. How can we be expected to vote to give powers up when we have no idea what powers we'll be surrendering to one human being?
  • The salary will be extortionate. At the moment the council leader's salary is about £45k. An elected mayor would be paid between £60k and £70. In addition, every cabinet member the mayor chooses to appoint would cost £13k each. Doesn't seem to me like this is austerity in action.
  • It'll be Labour or Labour round here. The council leader elected by councillors is Peter Box. An elected mayor will no doubt end up being Peter Box. The notion of choice that a mayoral election will bring means very little around here so why bother paying more money for the same man?
  • Wakefield has no one distinct community. We're not called 'Wakefield and the Five Towns' for nothing. Normanton, Pontefract, Featherstone, Castleford and Knottingley all come under the remit but my fear would be that an elected mayor would focus on the central belt. I'm not the only central resident to have had enough of on-going development work that doesn't seem to have a coherent purpose. I certainly don't want more of it. 
  • The mayor could not be removed mid-term. At least the council leader can be removed during their term by the councillors. But if the mayor is incompetent or worse then we have to wait four years to get rid. Not good. 
  • What'll be the point of elected councillors? As far as I'm concerned, if we have an elected mayor everybody else that we vote in is redundant because the majority of decisions will be made by one individual. I don't see that as wholly democratic. 
  • I don't want one person in charge. I think this is what it comes down to for me. I believe democracy can only be obtained through dialogue and compromise. I don't think we'll get that with an elected mayor.
I know a lot of people will disagree with me but these are my thoughts and these are the reasons I'll be voting 'No' on 3rd May when I'm asked whether Wakefield should have an elected mayor.