An elected mayor for Bath & North East Somerset would be ‘more costly and less accountable’, local Conservatives have warned.
The warning comes following an announcement that a referendum on whether or not B&NES should be governed by an elected mayor is to take place on Thursday 10th March. The referendum is taking place after a petition was handed to the Council containing the required number of signatures to trigger a vote on the issue.
Under the proposed regime, a mayor would replace the present system by which a Council Leader and Cabinet is chosen from among the existing local councillors.
However, Conservatives have said that changing to an elected mayor system would simply create additional unnecessary expense at a time when the authority is having to find £38 million worth of budget savings.
They have also warned that a mayor would be less accountable to residents and would reduce the ability of local councillors to get things done for their communities by giving them less say over the way the way in which Council Tax is spent.
Councillor Paul Myers, who is leading the Conservative campaign against an elected mayor for B&NES, said:
“We’ve looked carefully at the idea of a B&NES mayor, and concluded that it simply wouldn’t be right for somewhere like Bath and North East Somerset. It would mean having one person in charge of an area that stretches all the way from Bath to the Mendip Hills, with numerous towns and villages in between, each with their own distinct identity and needs.
“Experience elsewhere has shown that elected mayors cost more, listen less, and simply create an additional layer of expensive bureaucracy at a time when the Council has to make £38 million worth of savings.
“Throughout the country, the prospect of having an elected mayor has been rejected by voters in the vast majority of referendums that have taken place. The system has been shown to have no clear benefits but many costs and risks, and I believe that B&NES residents will also say ‘no thanks’ to the prospect of having an elected mayor in March.”
Some key facts about the elected mayor system include:
- Mayors cost more – A mayor’s salary is likely to be more than double that of the Council Leader’s £30,500 allowance, and, unlike a Council Leader, a mayor would be eligible for pension and national insurance contributions from the taxpayer. Whilst B&NES has used Government funding to freeze Council Tax in recent years, in Bristol residents’ Council Tax bills have gone up by more than £80 in the three years since having a mayor.
- Mayors are less accountable – It is harder for Councillors and residents to hold a mayor to account between elections as the mayor would have ultimate responsibility for all key decisions affecting the B&NES area. In addition, a mayor’s budget can only be rejected or amended by a two-thirds vote of councillors, making it harder for Councillors to secure the right investment for their local communities.
- Mayoral systems have proved unpopular – The elected mayor system has been rejected in the vast majority of referendums that have been held throughout the country. In 2012 nine out of ten cities which held referendums rejected the idea, and some places – such as Stoke-on-Trent and Hartlepool – have actually voted to scrap the mayor and gone back to the ‘Leader and Cabinet’ model we currently have in B&NES.