Calls for referendum on mayor’s role rejected

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CALLS for a referendum on the future of the elected mayoral system in North Tyneside have been dismissed.

Liberal Democrat councillors moved a motion at the last full meeting of North Tyneside Council calling for a referendum on the way the borough is run.

The call followed the rejection of the mayoral system by voters in nine UK cities and towns earlier this year, raising questions about the future of those elected mayors already in post.

Lib Dem members believe that a referendum – timed to tie in with the election for police commissioner planned for November – would offer residents the ideal opportunity to have their say on whether to continue with the current system or try something else.

However, Labour and Conservative councillors joined forces to throw out the motion.

Labour’s mayoral candidate Norma Redfearn acknowledged that there had been difficulties with the mayoral system in the borough but said it would be better to hold a referendum when there would be a greater turnout at the polls, such as alongside a general election.

“I do not see that rushing to a referendum of the people in North Tyneside in the dark days of November is an appropriate response to the current problem,” she said.

“If, at some point in the future, North Tyneside voters were to be asked whether they wanted to continue with an elected mayor, a more democratic approach would be to hold a referendum at a time that was likely to secure a larger turnout, such as at a general election.”

Labour councillors have criticised current mayor Linda Arkley for pressing ahead with her own budget plans despite not having the necessary third of the votes in the council chamber.

Coun Redfearn added: “Her stubborn refusal to negotiate and agree even a compromise plan with the majority party is, in Labour’s views, profoundly undemocratic and goes against the spirit, if not the actual letter, of the legislation for elected mayors.”

However, Mrs Arkley, a Tory, hit back, saying: “I was democratically elected by residents with a mandate which I’ve been successful in completing.

“I’m looking at growth and jobs in the borough, getting the best I can.

“My door has always been open for everyone. I meet regularly with the leaders and deputies of the political groups.”

North Tynesiders were last asked about the mayoral system back in 2001, with 58 per cent of them voting in favour of bringing it in.