Bath and North East Somerset goes to the polls in two months time to decide whether or not it likes the idea of a mayor directly elected by the people.
A referendum will be held on March 10th after a petition organised by pro-campaigners reached the legally required threshold of 6,437 signatures – or at least five-percent of the local electorate.
Much has been made of the cost of organising this – though if it had been held on the same day as elections for a new police and crime commissioner it would have doubled up to make a saving.
The Virtual Museum has heard it’s more a question of difficulties with enough manpower but we did have local elections and a general election on the same day last year!
B&NES is currently run by a leader – Cllr Tim Warren – and cabinet system.
If the referendum returns a ‘yes’ vote the first election for an elected mayor would take place in May 2017. The first Directly Elected Mayor would hold office until May 2021 and terms of office would be four years.
The position of the current 65 councillors would remain unchanged, including meetings of the full council, policy development and scrutiny panels – also regulatory panels such as licencing and planning.
According to a council briefing paper, “Although moving to a Directly Elected Mayor and cabinet executive model represents a significant change to the way in which the council operates, any mayor would not have any constitutional powers additional to those currently held by the council leader.”
Anyone living in Bath and North East Somerset who is registered as a voter and is 18 or over will be able to take part.
People will be able to vote at polling stations, by post or by proxy.
More information on proceedings is available via http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/latestnews/date-set-referendum-future-governance-council and in council offices.
The Virtual Museum has decided to ask both ‘camps’ for their top ten reasons FOR and AGAINST.
By the toss of a coin Philip Raby – who is Chairman of the Mayor for B&NES Committee – goes first.
Now Cllr Tim Warren – Leader of B&NES – gives his top ten reasons why he’s against an elected leader.
Bath’s Conservative Mp Ben Howlett had entered the debate and has launched a survey for people to give their views. Others might argue that is what they will do on March 10th.
He says: ‘I am against the idea of an elected mayor for Bath & North East Somerset as I think it is inappropriate for such a diverse area, it will add more unnecessary bureaucracy and see the cost of politics skyrocket, at a time where we should be making savings. However, I want to hear what local residents want the future of politics in B&NES to look like.’
However, he says, ” I will work closely with the Council to improve our system of local governance, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.”
I must also point out the pro group have a website at http://mayorforbanes.org
There is also discussion around the Government’s desire for creating a much bigger Metropolitan area which would encompass Bristol, B&NES, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset.
It’s a rich area with a growing economy and collective sense of direction. Such an area – and some are fearful it’s Avon rearing its head again – would be managed by a ‘super’mayor. There’s also support for a return to the old ‘shire’ county of Somerset. INteresting times indeed.