What should we consider in deciding how to vote on 3 May?
Joseph Chamberlain Mayor of Birmingham 1873-6 – a man of energy and ideas – he would have made a worthy Elected Mayor!
Time is short – the referendum is IMPORTANT and it is on this Thursday this week 3 May – please pass on the link to this article to those you know i.e. http://www.brumcitycentre.com.
There are two main questions:
- What additional powers and funding would a Directly Elected Mayor (DEM) have?
- How do we sack one who is no good?
1 Powers and Funding
Additional Powers Categorised
The Directly Elected Mayor (DEM) would have “Co-decision” and “Exclusive” powers.
Co-decision powers are shared with the Council and relate to budget setting and policy. Proposals made by the DEM can be overruled by a two thirds majority of Councillors.
Exclusive powers are not too well defined at the moment but are quasi-judicial powers over decisions on planning and licensing, and certain ceremonial, employment and legal decisions.
Nine Councillors can be appointed to the cabinet by a DEM in a Cabinet system as we have currently. The DEM can delegate powers, either to them as individuals, or to the Cabinet committee, or to subcommittees of the Cabinet committee. In practice, the DEM remains personally accountable, so delegation and hence dilution of his/her powers has not happened frequently elsewhere.
Obtaining Additional Powers and Funding
December’s Cabinet Office prospectus, Unlocking Growth in Cities, stated that cities wanting significant new powers and funding would “need to demonstrate strong, visible and accountable leadership and effective decision-making structures”. This is widely interpreted as having a DEM.
This document launched the Government’s policy of ‘City Deals’ – bespoke packages of new powers, projects and funding sources, negotiated with the leaders of individual cities, in exchange for an agreement to work with the Government, the private sector and other agencies to unlock these cities’ “full growth potential”.
Ministers want to negotiate individual City Deals with elected mayors; and can’t say what any particular deal will consist of until they know who they’ll be negotiating with.
So, as a voter, you won’t know what you’ve voted for or against unless and until the election of a mayor completes and government deals start to happen.
Additional funding and support may well be available without electing a DEM.
Liverpool realised this and its Council decided on 7 February to get moving and have an elected mayor without consulting their electorate. Then the election of the actual mayor will take place on 3 May.
In advance of this Liverpool has negotiated a City Deal with the Government. This will provide substantial funds for the city to enable business to grow more readily. This is not supposedly dependent on there being an elected mayor but is conditional on the city demonstrating the necessary accountability as described above. The Government has indicated that an elected mayor system would satisfy these requirements.
2. Removal of a DEM
When elected the DEM would be in office for four years.
The Government has said that a “recall procedure” (removal) would be implemented at a later date which it believes is in time for the need for any such action to arise. No information on how this could work has been forthcoming – what would be grounds for removal and who would be able to enforce this and how.
Person Dependent Role
A lot will depend on the person elected as DEM and the outcome could be very good , very bad, or no change. It might help to put down character traits that could affect the outcome.
What a successful candidate might have:
Entrepreneurial skills – achiever, vision, salesmanship, management ability, establishing policy and direction, influential and convincing
The right objectives – working for Brummies, not constrained by a national political party.
The right character – selflessness, open agenda, incorruptible
What an unsuccessful candidate is likely to be:
Biased – inflexible and unlistening
Constrained by the past
Influenced by the wrong things – central Government or political party
The wrong character – egocentric, prone to self-gratification, driven by power lust, monetary reward and/or self-esteem
3. My Conclusions
- We don’t really know what we are voting for or against on 3 May.
- David Cameron believes this is the way forward, so one’s decision may depend on your view of his motives and direction.
- Getting Government help for the City would seem to be easier with a DEM.
- Government support will be dependent on the actual person to be elected as DEM (and therefore perhaps his political colour?)
- Government control over the running and funding for growth of the city may well increase.
- If we choose carefully and elect the right person, the city will benefit substantially, and the converse will without doubt apply.
- It may be very difficult to remove the wrong person and the means does not currently exist in law.
- Finally, as David Cameron wants all major cities to have a DEM, can we afford not to have one?
- If we vote Yes, then we will need to examine very carefully the platform and personality of those putting themselves forward for election as DEM.
4. There are now two organisations intent on converting you to their way of thinking on this:
The Yes campaigners – Yes to a Birmingham Mayor.
The No campaigners – Vote No to a Power Freak.
5. Below are those who currently intend to stand for a DEM plus links to websites with information about them:
Submitted by Geoff Caine – these are his views and do not necessarily reflect those of the Committee of the City Centre Neighbourhood Forum