Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Anger over Plans for a City Mayor; Boris-Style Leader Will Be a 'Burden'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Anger over Plans for a City Mayor; Boris-Style Leader Will Be a 'Burden'

Article excerpt

Byline: Adam Jupp

PLANS to impose a mayor on Newcastle appear to have moved a step closer. The Journal told earlier this year how Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was considering forcing 12 major UK cities to install Boris Johnson-style figureheads within two years.

Now it has emerged the coalition Government is pressing ahead with the move and will only hold a referendum on the issue after the change has been made.

That has enraged politicians in the region, including members of the city's ruling Liberal Democrats.

Deputy leader Coun Anita Lower said: "We are not in favour of this. We are not being asked whether we want this, we are being told it is going to happen and then having to ask the people whether they think it is working or not.

"And we really do not need the additional burden, in terms of the financial cost of changing the system and holding elections, especially in the current climate.

"If there was an overwhelming majority screaming out, saying they want this, then it would be more understandable, but there is not. Instead the Government is just forcing it upon us."

Coun Lower added: "We have got a very good system in Newcastle already. It is effective and works well and we have already been through the process of asking residents what they want. It is not clear what the powers would be and is just another example of the Government ruling with populist policies without any substance."

Earlier this year, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) launched its Structural Reform Plan, which said the first mayors would be elected in each of England's 12 largest cities from 2012 "subject to confirmatory referenda and full scrutiny by elected councillors".

It was not clear what "confirmatory" meant and Ministers refused to confirm whether they were performing a U-turn on previous pledges to consult the public on whether they wanted the new system.

But now local government minister Bob Neill has confirmed mayors will be put in place first and a referendum held later. Asked how confirmatory referendums would work in practice, he said: "The question will be we have set up these things, do you want to stick with them? …

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