On Thursday 10 March 2016, there will be a referendum on the question of whether Bath & N E Somerset should change to having an elected mayor and Cabinet; or remain with a leader of the council and cabinet system.
In this guest blog post, Paul Myers, Chair of the ‘No to B&NES Mayor’ campaign asks residents to vote to keep the ‘Council Leader’ model. You can read the view from the 'Mayor for B&NES' campaign here.
Vote to keep the ‘Council Leader’ model on 10 March
On 10 March residents will get the chance to decide whether not B&NES should have an Elected Mayor. The most important thing of course is for as many residents as possible to have their say and vote in this referendum, as the outcome will decide how Bath & North East Somerset is run for many years into the future.
However, we believe a ‘B&NES Mayor’ would not be right for our area, and there are a number of very strong reasons why residents should reject the idea.
Firstly, having a B&NES Mayor would cost residents more. It would simply create an additional layer of bureaucracy at a time when the Council is having to make significant cost savings.
At around £65,000 a year, the Mayor’s likely salary would be more than double what the current Council Leader receives, and unlike a Council Leader the Mayor would be entitled to pension and National Insurance contributions from the taxpayer. The Mayor would also be able to employ their own advisors at the taxpayers’ expense, not to mention the cost of holding an extra election to decide who the Mayor should be.
Ultimately these costs get passed on to residents, either in reduced services or higher tax bills. In Bristol, which has had an Elected Mayor since 2012, Council Tax bills have risen by more than any other Council in the West of England.
A Mayor would also be less accountable. They would have ultimate power to make nearly all decisions across the whole B&NES area, meaning they would be able to push-through their own pet projects with few ways to stop them.
This would make it more difficult to hold a Mayor to account, and would also make it much harder for local councillors to get things done for the communities they represent.
Finally, Mayoral systems like this have proved unpopular. The idea has been rejected by voters in the vast majority of referendums held elsewhere in the country, and some areas have disliked the system so much they have even decided to scrap their Mayor and gone back to the current system we have here in B&NES!
Our current system of having a ‘Leader and Cabinet’ may not be perfect, but we know from experience that it works for our area – it’s less costly, more accountable and by having a Cabinet made up of councillors from across the district, it is more representative of the whole B&NES area as well.
Having a ‘B&NES Mayor’ would be a costly and unnecessary change to our current system with no clear benefits to residents, and so we urge residents to vote to keep the ‘Council Leader’ model on 10 March.
Anyone registered to vote can take part in this referendum, either by voting in person on the day, or by postal vote. You can register to vote by post here.