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. 

1 comment:

  1. I like Lucy, she's clever and witty and nice - but she's also wrong to vote No, with or without the exclamation mark, to there being an elected Mayor in Wakefield. As she has made her case under reasoned headings, I'll respond accordingly

    We have no idea of the powers an elected mayor would have. No specifics does not lead to us having 'no idea' what the powers would be. An Act of Parliament states there must be a Referendum and that if the vote is in favour of a an elected Mayor, then an elected Mayor there shall be. Do we want the Local Authority spending money on consulting on and working out specifics of a role that may never exist? From the concern about an individual salary, I would think not. The powers can, if the vote is Yes, be given careful consideration with input from members of the community. Its likely, lets be fair, to be broadly the same as other places with Mayors. In charge, driving policy, but with accountability.
    The salary will be extortionate. A salary does not become extortionate by rising from £45k to £60k, if that is indeed to be the increase. That reflects the role having more responsibility and pressure and, I would say, recognise that it's an individual role not just a slight step up from the rest of the Council by virtue of being the least unpopular amongst other councillors.
    It'll be Labour or Labour round here. Not necessarily. It would be an amazing opportunity for not only someone who is not Labour to stand up and make a positive difference, but for someone without the constraints of party political affiliation to do so. Put someone in who listens to the community not party policy. Someone who isn't jaded by politics. Someone normal not just another councillor. Best of all would be YOU choose.
    Wakefield has no one distinct community. Does London? Does America, which effectively has a Mayor. You can analyse down from continent to country to region to city and there will always be different areas with different views, becoming more noticeable the larger the area gets. It's because, thankfully, we are all individuals. It not an argument against having an elected Mayor.
    The mayor could not be removed mid-term. An interesting argument given that there is another above saying we don't know the specific of the role but assuming that is the general position, I cannot think for a moment that the good people of area would not hound out of office any Mayor felt to be doing such a bad job of it that removal became necessary.
    What'll be the point of elected councillors? I would anticipate that any powers of a Mayor would be kept in check by the councillors, partly given that we tend not to be big on dictatorships in the UK over the last century or two but more confidently because the post will at least in part be defined by the councillors themselves.
    I don't want one person in charge. I do. I think, for example, Lucy would be good, because she appreciates all the above issues are concerns that need to be addressed and does so in a well reasoned manner. I think, rather immodestly, that i would be good too. There are likely to be a lot of other, perhaps more willing candidates too. I'm sure you know someone who would make a great Mayor and a lot of people who are quite the opposite. Wouldn't it be good to actually be able to choose who it is! 
    Vote Yes then. Let's make a difference. Let's get someone in with freedom to make reasoned and fair decisions on behalf of the public, by listening to them while considering the other factors. That would, quite simply, be a good thing.