Monday, 1 August 2011

Roger Godsiff urges "No" to an elected Mayor for Birmingham.

The decision as to whether Birmingham should have an elected Mayor will be taken at the same time as the local elections.  People will have different views on this issue as they did on the AV Referendum.  Personally, I am totally opposed to the idea of an elected Mayor for Birmingham because I do not believe that it will improve the governance of Birmingham and it will dilute still further the role of elected Councillors and will concentrate even more power (limited though these might be) in the hands of one individual.  Of course it will be argued by supporters of the idea that London has an elected Mayor so why shouldn’t Birmingham but the two situations are totally different.

London has 8 million plus people living in it compared with 2 million plus in Birmingham.  London has 32 boroughs whereas Birmingham is one single authority.  London used to have a London-wide authority, the Greater London Council, sitting above the 32 boroughs.  It was abolished by Mrs. Thatcher in the 1980s because the GLC was a constant irritant to her.  The idea of importing an elected Mayor system from America was dreamt up in Downing Street by people who had no experience of being in, or running, local Councils and because it was American and trendy it was adopted by the Blair Government as an alternative to reinventing the GLC.  Other than being a focal point and advocate for London the Mayor of London only has real influence in a couple of areas which are under his control and neither of these apply to Birmingham.  The London Mayor controls London Underground and London buses but Birmingham does not have an underground system and the bus service is not under the control of the City Council.  Ken Livingstone introduced congestion charging in London and there would be a good case for doing this in Birmingham as part of wider transport policy but this can be done by an elected City Council and you do not have to have a Mayor to do this.

Elected Mayors were a ‘trendy idea’ and some Councils adopted them.  Some of these Councils, like Stoke, have since scrapped the idea while others, like Hartlepool, showed what they thought of the idea by electing a candidate who stood as a monkey to be Mayor!  What the people of Birmingham want is good governance by their elected Councillors and not a gimmick which will eliminate still further the role of the elected Councillor as is the case with the London Assembly which is virtually powerless.  I will urge anybody who cares to listen to vote ‘No’ and I am quite prepared to work alongside similar minded people in other parties to defeat this proposal.

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