Bill for Leeds mayor election revealed

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The bill for the mayoral referendum to be held in Leeds in May is expected to cost the taxpayer £250,000, it has been revealed.

The Government, which has ordered Leeds and nine other cities to hold referendums on whether to ditch the way their council is currently run in favour of a directly elected mayor, will pay for the polls.

They will take place on May 3, the same day as the local elections.

A council spokesman said the cost for Leeds was estimated at £250,000.

Should voters decide they want their city to be run by a mayor, the contest will be held on November 15 – the date of elections to select police commissioners.

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Many councillors in Leeds oppose the idea of an elected mayor for the city.

Coun Andrew Carter, Conservative group leader, suggested the 2012 budget meeting could turn out to be historic as the last one held under the current system.

Before proposing some budget amendments, he said: “Next year 99 members could be sitting here listening to someone present a budget on which we can only comment. I am, of course, referring to the prospect of a directly-elected mayor.

“Some people believe an elected mayor would be a good thing but I don’t think people want to sit in this chamber and listen to a person putting forward a budget they can have absolutely no effect on. The best they could do is delay for two or three weeks.”

He acknowledged opposition group amendments were usually rejected by the authority’s ruling party, but noted some of the spending ideas put forward were ultimately adopted in some form.

Coun Robert Finnigan, leader of the Morley Borough Independents, said: “Elected mayors is a bonkers idea. All it does is concentrate power.”

Supporters for change argue a directly-elected mayor system – which currently operates in a handful of towns and cities – provides transparency and accountability and could prove a catalyst for economic investment. Wakefield is also holding referendums.

Coun Judith Blake.

Leeds council leader’s talks with chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier