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Lord Adonis, director of the independent think tank the Institute for Government, visiting the Civic Hall in Leeds for discussions to have an elected mayor in the city.
Lord Adonis, director of the independent think tank the Institute for Government, visiting the Civic Hall in Leeds for discussions to have an elected mayor in the city.
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Should Leeds switch the way the city is run and opt for an elected mayor?

That is the question likely to dominate local politics over the next 12 months.

And political and business leaders in the city have been putting their views on the issue to Lord Adonis, director of the Institute for Government, an independent think tank.

He is currently touring the 12 cities – including Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield – due to have mayoral referendums in May next year to gauge the mood and prepare a report for Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.

Should the people decide they want an elected mayor, a poll will be held in May 2013.

In the meantime, the Government is planning to lay an order in Parliament later this year which will make the council leaders in each of the 12 cities “shadow mayors,” who will rule until the 2012 referendums.

An elected mayor would have executive powers to make key decisions and be held accountable by councillors, likely to be fewer than the 99 Leeds currently has.

During his visit to the Civic Hall, Lord Adonis said: “The views I have received so far on my tour of the cities have been mixed. Business leaders tend to be in favour and local politicians tend to be against.

“The arguments are very clear. People in favour see elected mayors as an opportunity to generate stronger leadership and greater accountability. A strong leader can fight for their city nationally and internationally with a high profile like Boris Johnson in London. People against feel it puts too much power in the hands of one person. It should be remembered there will still be a council to hold the mayor to account.”

He said what was being proposed in the 12 cities was a fundamental change and it was right that people were being given the chance to have their say in a referendum.

He added: “My personal view is that there is a good case for elected mayors because our cities outside London have not been doing well over the last 20 years.”

Lord Adonis argued strong elected mayors would be a powerful voice in helping to attract jobs and investment to their cities.

Among those he met in Leeds were Coun Keith Wakefield, council leader, and Leeds Chamber of Commerce boss Garry Williamson.

Sarah Champion MP

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