WOULD you vote on who should be Blackpool’s first citizen? Campaigners who believe the resort should be given a chance to vote on elected mayors were today backed.
Supporters behind the proposal to have London’s Boris Johnson-style leader say “the time has now come” for change in Blackpool.
It comes after Salford voted in favour of a directly elected mayor last week and the Government decided 11 cities across the country, including Liverpool and Manchester, should hold referendums in May.
The Labour government introduced the Local Government Act in 2000, which proposed three forms of executive for local authorities.
One option is a directly elected mayor with a cabinet consisting of two or more councillors appointed by the mayor.
The other is a directly elected mayor with a council manager – the mayor would be directly elected but the council manager would be appointed by full council
Another is an indirectly elected leader and cabinet – a councillor would be elected as leader of the executive by the full council, and would then appoint a cabinet of two or more councillors.
Hartlepool famously elected a monkey while Stoke – which was among the first towns to have an elected mayor – voted to scrap its mayor in 2008 six years after its introduction.
Communities minister Greg Clark believes elected mayors would give “visible leadership” and increase prosperity.
Former Liberal Democrat Anchorsholme councillor Jon Bamborough, who has led the campaign, said: “The system we have at present isn’t working.
“There are some local people who have got successful businesses in Blackpool who think the time has come.
“We have had a council which the public didn’t like, they have voted in another and nothing has changed. It’s the same way but with different people. We need a change in the way the town is run rather than a different political party.”
Unlike Blackpool’s current first citizen, Coun Joan Greenhalgh, who was chosen on seniority and whose role is ceremonial, an elected mayor would be more like a council leader, running all aspects of the town’s administration.
Blackpool would be legally obliged to hold a referendum if more than five per cent of the electorate sign a petition calling for a vote on the proposal. Mr Bamborough added: “We don’t think it will be difficult to get signatures from five per cent of the electorate.
“There is a lot of renewed interest so we are talking about having a meeting about it fairly soon.
“Having an elected mayor would mean you could engage people behind a person, rather than behind a party.”
And David Palmer, a Bispham resident, said: “I would like to see the politics taken out of the decisions and have a mayor in place who was independent.”
However, Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South, said his main issues surrounding elected mayors are the additional cost and taking away decisions from councillors.
He said: “I can see it is superficially attractive to have one person who is seen as the ‘can-do’ person who can represent the town.
“But with elected mayors there can be dangers of cliques around them. We are always talking about keeping politics close to the public but if we have an elected mayor the councillors could feel slightly redundant in their own wards.”