Who wants Salford’s £100k-a-year Mayor role?

Salford today took one step closer to the possibility of an elected Mayor on the same day Leicester City Council announced it was increasing their elected Mayor’s salary to £100,000 per year. Leicester’s Labour-controlled council also decided it would pay his Deputy Mayor £75,000 per year and his SIX “assistant Mayors” would also get a pay increase taking their salaries to £40,000 each!

Leicester elected their first directly-elected Mayor in May of this year; could that city’s voters have guessed their Mayor would get a £44,000 pay rise barely half-way through his first year in office?

At today’s full session of Salford City Council it was announced that January 2012 would be the date of Salford’s Mayoral Referendum and should that Referendum produce a “YES” vote, the election for Salford’s first directly-elected Mayor would be held in May (on the same day as the city’s local elections).

So, while a decidely bad idea for Salford – who are the front-runners for the top job in Salford should the electorate decide it wants to pay for a different kind of leader?

Despite being vehemently against a directly-elected Mayor, Salford Labour’s current leader (and leader of the Council) Councillor John Merry has already all-but thrown his hat in the ring, declaring on Twitter that he “still wanted to lead [the council]”.

Salford Conservatives seem split, but publicly they are in the “YES” camp and Boothstown & Ellenbrook Councillor Robin Garrido has been mentioned as a front-runner for the local Tories. No official candidate has been declared (nor would they be likely to declare one until after the Referendum).

As for the Liberal Democrats, we are completely against a directly-elected Mayor for Salford and so we absolutely will not select a candidate unless the Referendum produces a yes result.

I fear, however, a plethora of Independent Candidates will be tempted by the potential £100,000 salary and so it’s highly likely that a long list of Independent hopefuls will throw their hat into the ring.

Geoffrey Berg is probably the choice of the “mayoral alliance” – the main organiser of the Mayoral Petition which forced the Referendum. I’d be surprised if he relented and allowed his co-conspirators Michael Moulding (currently Community Action Party, ex-Independent, ex-Liberal Democrat) or Stephen Morris/Paul Whitelegg of the English Democrats. The English Democrat elected Mayor in Doncaster has made such a hash of his term of office, I doubt it would be good for the “mayoral alliance” campaign if they selected an English Democrat.

But what about other Independents? I fear the temptation of a huge salary coupled with likely local media interest will see the Referendum campaign turn into nothing more than a circus. How is that good for democracy or good for Salford?