The way local government works is a mystery to many people, and since getting involved in politics earlier this year I have certainly had my eyes opened about the realities of the way things are run in Hillingdon.
Regular visitors to the site will know that the English Democrats are pushing for a referendum on elected council leaders (Or executive mayors as they are known) throughout England in areas where they do not already exist.
Below is a quick rundown on how the system works, and how our current model of ‘strong leader’ works in Hillingdon…
INTRODUCTION TO THE
DIRECTLY ELECTED MAYORAL SYSTEM
The possibility of having directly elected Executive Mayors was introduced in the Local Government Act 2000.
THE UK currently has 12 directly elected mayors – the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has recently voted for a mayoral system but has not yet elected one.
Several Mayors are independents and are not beholden to an Establishment Party. Ken Livingstone won in London as an independent after the Labour Party refused to endorse him. Stuart Drummond, Hartlepool United’s club mascot H’Angus the Monkey, won in 2002 on the back of a jokey campaign. He has been re-elected twice since and is doing an excellent job for his town. Former senior policeman Ray Mallon won in Middlesborough as an independent in 2002 and won re-election in the recent election by a landslide. Two district councils have mayors: Watford and Mansfield.
The authorities for local governance are:-
1. Councillor Committees
This is the old Committee system and has been widely criticised as being too slow and too lacking in transparency.
2. Elected Mayor
The mayor is directly elected by all the local authority’s voters and serves for four years. He or she would choose up to 10 councillor as cabinet members. The mayor cannot be removed from office by councillors.
3. Council leader
By contrast to the directly elected Mayor the Council leader is secretly elected by the councillors of the local ruling party. The council continues to carry out business through committees, chaired by Councillors chosen by the local ruling party. Whichever party has the largest number of councillors will also have a majority representation in each committee. All decisions made at committee meetings must be adopted at the next statutory council meeting. The Council leader can be removed by the council during his/her term of office by a majority vote and so is beholden for his position to the largest party on the Council and so answers to them and not to the wider electorate.
A directly elected Mayor can take decisions with a Cabinet of a few councillors appointed by the elected Mayor
The Mayor would be elected for a four year term by all residents eligible to vote in local elections.
The local authorities “Executive” (or “Cabinet”) would be made up of between three and ten councillors, including the elected Mayor.
Elections for Councillors would be held as they are now.
Councillors would have a role in the scrutiny of the Mayor’s decisions on major issues, including the council tax and major policy decisions. Committees of councillors would continue on planning, licensing and regulatory functions. Otherwise the Mayor would be free to decide how decisions were made, and the Mayor and his Cabinet would take most decisions on a day to day basis instead of committees of councillors.
Councillors who are not members of the executive would continue to have some important functions, including representing their local communities. They could monitor and comment on the performance of the Mayor and Cabinet – the scrutiny role referred to above.
- The new Mayor would provide local political leadership
- The Mayoral system provides a single, accountable leader directly responsible to the voters
- Faster decision making
- Power to get policies into place quickly
- A fixed four year term ensures some continuity with direct accountability to voters
So, we now have a choice on how our local area is run – Except that the powers that be at the Civic Centre really don’t want you to know this.
I would like to say a big thank you at this point to Peter Silverman, who runs the Hillingdon Watch website. Peter has made it clear to me that he is not a supporter of The English Democrats, and does not share our vision for a devolved England and English Parliament. However, he is very passionate about local government accountability, and we all owe him a debt for his sterling work on the site, and his uncovering of how the local elite have tried to cover over the opportunity for local people to have their say. Both a council run survey, and one that Peter bankrolled from his own pocket, have shown that the people of Hillingdon would like a referendum on an elected council leader – However, the ruling party in Hillingdon have tried to cover over the opportunity for everyone to have their say by excusing it as being ‘not of sufficient interest’ and by running their survey in an underhand and slipshod manner.
Proof of this is evident on the website on the following link….
I don’t know about you, but I am one of the breed that bristles when people try to tell me they know best without giving me a say on the matter.
If you want to send a message to our arrogant council leaders, who insist that they know best irrespective of us not having been given a say, then please print off and sign the petition for a referendum on an elected executive leader for Hillingdon. Whether you think this is a good idea or not, surely you deserve to be heard?