City mayors WILL be imposed on Leeds and Wakefield after the Government pulled off an extraordinary double u-turn.
Plans to breathe new life into local government descended into farce today when ministers made clear that the leaders of Leeds and Wakefield Councils faced being turned into mayors – even if they do not want to be.
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The move will set the government on a collision course with local politicians in West Yorkshire who have repeatedly made clear their
opposition to the policy.
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Leeds council leader's Coun Keith Wakefield has previously told colleagues that he would rather resign than be turned overnight into a mayor.
The YEP first revealed in October that Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles was planning to "rebadge" the leaders of 12 city councils as mayors without a public vote.
This caused uproar and, faced with a campaign of non-co-operation from council leaders, Mr Pickles backed down and dropped the proposal.
However, in yet another u-turn, Mr Pickles will today resurrect the plan when he publishes the long-awaited Localism Bill.
The cabinet minister will say that once the Bill is approved by Parliament – likely to be next summer – the Government will lay an order which will turn the leaders of Leeds and Wakefield councils into
so-called "shadow mayors".
These mayors will work in the same way as the mayors that have already been elected under existing legislation in a dozen towns and cities including Doncaster, Middlesbrough, Hackney and Stoke-on-Trent.
Established under a law passed by Tony Blair's Labour government, these mayors do not have many additional powers to council leaders but act as a "figurehead" in their local areas and often focus campaigns on certain issues, like tackling anti-social behaviour.
The shadow mayors will rule until May 2012, when a referendum will be held to decide whether the mayor model of local government should continue.
For areas that vote in favour, mayoral elections will then be held in May 2013.
Those mayors elected to a four year turn will wield "enhanced powers", although the government has not yet made clear what those powers will be.
Shadow mayors will also be imposed in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham and Sheffield.
A public consultation in Leeds showed 395 preferred an elected mayor and 324 went for a leader-cabinet arrangement, similar to how the authority has been run since 2001.