English Democrats force elected Mayor vote in Salford

The English Democrats party is forcing Salford to hold a referendum on an elected Mayor for the city after they handed in a 10,000 name petition. Under the Local Government Act introduced by Labour, if 5% of the electorate petition the council and the signatures are correctly matched to names on the city’s electoral roll, a vote on the issue will be triggered automatically.

Last September at their party conference, the English Democrats launched a bid to increase the number of directly elected mayors across England, and Salford has become the first city to receive a referendum as a result of their campaign.

In a press release Robin Tilbrook, the English Democrats’ Party Chairman said “…Salford City Council was the first to achieve the necessary 5% of voters signatures to trigger a referendum under the Local Government Act 2000.”

Robin continued “All the British Establishment Parties nationally have pushed for elected Mayors to sort out the abysmal standards of both local government decision making and of democratic accountability but at the local level their councillors have usually been too busy looking after their own interests.

But why Salford? The organiser of the petition, Stephen Morris, does not live in the city and at a recent full council session, Salford’s 60 councillors voted in favour of retaining “a strong leader” and cabinet executive, so it seems clear that Salford’s democratically elected members do not share the same appetite for an elected mayor as Mr Morris and his party.

While I may count Salford’s leader, Councillor John Merry, as a political adversary – I do accept that he was elected fair and square in a local government election and that his colleagues who (by virtue of their numbers) control Salford City Council, have decided he is the man to lead them.

Councillor Merry said “[This] is not the first time English Democrats have cost us large sums of money. A mayoral election is likely to cost the people of Salford £150,000 and the organiser lives in Bury.”

If a YES vote forces Salford voters to directly elect it’s leader, rather than the members of the largest party on the council, I can only imagine how difficult running the city would be if a political opposite were to win the right to lead members of an opposing party.

Following an emphatic NO result in the AV Referendum just over a year ago, the voters of Salford have demonstrated their views and the preference is clearly to retain the status quo. I question the motives of the English Democrats, given the recent rejection by Salfordians of major changes to our electoral system.

Arnie Craven, Electoral Reform Society Council candidate added “Anything that may increase democratic engagement is to be welcomed. However the current rules surrounding directly elected Mayors unacceptably diminish the powers of local Councillors. That’s why I am calling on the Government to adjust their plans for elected Mayors in our cities, so as to ensure hard working Councillors retain their powers of scrutiny & oversight”

And given the Conservatives are considering not standing candidates in elections for the new elected police commissioners which are due to take place next May I am surprised at Tory support for elected Mayors, although in Salford perhaps it offers them a slim chance to wrestle leadership of the council from Labour control.

Nationally, the Liberal Democrats are currently calling for candidates interested in standing as Police & Crime Commissioners to undergo the parliamentary approval process, as all Lib Dem candidates will be required to be on the Party’s list of approved parliamentary candidates before being allowed to stand under the party banner.

However, no such call has gone out to local parties with regard to potential Lib Dem Mayoral candidates who may be considering standing. If Mayoral and Police Commissioner elections go ahead next year, certainly in Salford, it’s entirely possible there will be no Conservative or Liberal Democrat candidates, potentially leaving the door open for well-funded BNP or English Democrat candidates to grab power by the back door. Locally, Labour have yet to announce if they intend to put forward their own candidates to fight these elections.

 

Comments

  1. Steve Middleton August 14, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Stephen,

    Thanks for your comment. It’s the other way around for me – I grew up (and was schooled) in Whitefield and Unsworth, then I bought my first house in the late 1990s in Radcliffe. Later I moved to Prestwich before coming to Salford around 5 years ago. However, you don’t see me meddling in the political scene in Bury Metro Council do you? There’s a good reason for that, I don’t pay any tax whatsoever to Bury. I contribute exactly nothing to Bury at the moment – so why should I force Bury to spend money on a referendum that no-one is likely to vote yes in? You see my point?

    What gives you the right to spend £150,000 of Salford taxpayers money on a referendum? Quite frankly, I would’ve liked that £150,000 to be spent on housing homeless adults or funding more community facilities for local residents.

    Thanks for spending my council tax money. I’ll be sure not to spend yours unless I actually live in Bury. You should apologise to Salford taxpayers for your actions.

  2. Stephenmorris August 11, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Dear Steve, As you will be aware the ability to bring a referendum was brought in by Labour’s Local Government Act , the Tory’s and Lib Dems have taken this one step further to allow the top 12 cities in England to have a referendum for elected Mayors, Manchester will be having theirs next year. Salford is a city in it’s own right and the electorate should not be denied the same democratic choices as other cities and it will be up to the people to decide not the current politicians who only have their own interests at heart. 
    I would also like to clarify your comments about me being “from Bury” actually I live in Whitefield where my wife is from and where I moved to, I was born and raised in the Wardley area of Swinton, I attended primary, secondary schools in Wardley and then Salford College, I was on the terraces at Swinton Lions station road ground from 6 days old being held in my mothers arms. My mother, my sisters family, cousins, Aunties and Uncles and to many to name other family and friends all live in Swinton. You may take the lad out of Swinton but you can’t take Swinton out of the lad.

  3. Steve Middleton August 1, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I have had to edit your comment as it contained inaccuracies (notably, the name of the petition organiser), but the majority of your comment stands as you typed it. I do not normally allow comments without a name, but in this instance I will make an exception as you identified yourself as the Stafford Mayoral petition organiser. In future, please use your name as well as your “position”.

    I must say that I disagree with your opinion that elected mayors are free from conforming to politics and political parties, when the current Labour leader of Salford City Council has not ruled out standing (his exact words were “he still wants to lead this city.”

    Further, where you say that “local elections have lost the electorate and elected mayors are the only way to re-engage voters” you offer no proof that mayoral elections are “the only way”. I seem to recall exactly the same words being spoken by the YES2AV campaign (and, yes, I was a supporter of yes2av).

    Your last statement shows that you have little understanding of the functioning of a council. Most councils have a party “in majority” and they rule, while the other parties/independents on the council are often reduced to simply representing their constituents (speaking on their behalf etc). Minority parties and independent councillors often have little say or impact on policy making of the council – the decisions being made by the party with the largest majority. In some cases, there is a coalition (similar to our government) where no party has enough elected members to form an overall majority. Are you suggesting an elected mayor is anything like this situation?

    I question the ability of an elected mayor to lead a council if his is not selected by his peers ON the council – it just won’t work in Salford (I can’t speak for Stafford or elsewhere). The only scenario I see an elected mayor working in Salford is if the voters choose the current leader (Councillor John Merry). And if they do, what was the point of the mayoral election and what a waste of £150,000 on a referendum!

    The referendum does not add value to Salford’s democracy and the fact that it had to be organised by people from Bury and Prestwich shows their is little appetite for that kind of change in Salford. I would also like to speak with some of the signatories on the Salford Mayoral referendum petition to see if they were told the truth (and real reason) about the petition or if they were misled by Mr Berg as the people of Bury were in that mayoral referendum back in 2008.

  4. Elect Mayor Stafford August 1, 2011 at 12:39 am

    I am the Petition Organiser for Elected Mayor for Stafford Borough Council in Staffordshire. Well done to Mr Steven Middleton in bringing about a referendum for Elected Mayor for Salford. I support a yes majority and would happily volunteer to man a stall up in Salford to help in answering people’s questions on Elected Mayors.

    Elected Mayors are free from conforming to politics and political parties and so are free to listen and act as local people and local businesses, market traders and high street shopkeepers want. 

    Elected Mayors do not diminish councillors. Local elections have lost the electorate and Elected Mayors are the only way to re-engage with voters. Especially at this time of deep and savage cuts to public sector funding. People need to be in charge of the priorities of council spending.

    The motives of the English Democrats are the same as the Coalition Government, which is giving us, the people, direct public elected Police and Crime Commissioners next spring and the beginning of the process of direct public elected upper house of parliament. This is western democracy. For the people to direct public elect their leaders. 

    The BNP are nothing whatever to do with English Democrats. 

    The English Democrats and UKIP are centrist parties in exactly the same political space.

    Being part non-English in heritage, UKIP and English Democrats are exactly the same re the English and immigrants to England to bring harmony. 

    For councillors to bemoan the cost of a referendum is against the core role of democracy. For a referendum is exactly the same as elections for the voice of the people to be heard in a western democracy. 

    Many parties co-exist in a lot of councils, so the various parties problem is solved all over England and has done for decades upon decades.

    To read about Elected Mayors please see my petition website
    http://www.staffordshire-vote-english.info 

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