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Birmingham Trades Council Mayoral debate

Solidarity Forever | 18.04.2012 10:46 | Workers' Movements | Birmingham

"Should trade unionists support an Elected Mayor?”

Thursday 19th April, 7pm - 9 pm

Council House, Birmingham B1 1BB

To be chaired by Joe Morgan

GMB Regional Secretary

Yes to an Elected Mayor:

Sion Simon, former Labour MP for Erdington.

Additional speaker to be confirmed.

No to an Elected Mayor:

Roger Godsiff, Labour MP for Hall Green and Richard Hatcher, Professor of Education, Birmingham City University.

An elected dictator in the Council House?

No to elected mayors - democratise the Council!

On May 3rd voters will be asked whether they want an elected mayor. If they vote yes an election will be held in November. There is a real danger that voters will vote for an elected mayor out of disillusion with how Birmingham Council has been run over the last few years by the Tory-LibDem coalition. Not just the cuts in services and jobs, but the widespread feeling that there is an absence of dynamic leadership in the city and that citizens have no influence over the politicians.

The 'Yes' campaign claims that a directly elected mayor is the solution - a single high-profile leader for Birmingham. For Labour supporters, the added attraction is that the winner will almost certainly be one of Labour'! three Labour candidates - Albert Bore, Sion Simon and Gisela Stuart.

But don't be taken in! The government's aim is to strike a further devastating blow to what remains of local democracy. The Localism Act gives the elected Mayor dictatorial powers. The Mayor:

• Is in office for four years and cannot be unseated by a vote of council members.

• Appoints the Cabinet.

• Holds all the reins of council power to make policy

• Cannot be overruled by the Council unless at least two-thirds of councillors vote against.

• Sets the budget, again only subject to Council veto by a two-thirds majority

The role of councillors would be reduced to casework, unable to influence, let alone decide, Council policy -powerless to stop cuts in services even if they want to. Of course councillors should ensure good local services, but they can only do that if they have the power to take the big strategic decisions on which local services depend

In future mayors may have more and more power. The Localism Act gives the Local Government Secretary the power to hand over almost any local public service to an elected mayor. BTUC welcomes increased powers to local government, but not if they are in the hands of one largely unaccountable person.

No to an elected mayor, no to the status quo

The wording of the referendum presents a false choice - that the only way to get change is an elected mayor. But there is a third option: a radical democratisation of the present bureaucratic Council system, opening up decision-making in the city to participation by its citizens. The fundamental problem in Birmingham, as elsewhere, is that people - and especially young people and ethnic minorities - are completely alienated from local politics. They simply don't believe that they can make any difference. So the challenge for local government in Birmingham is: can it be reinvented to embrace the ideas, desires and energies of the people of the city? An elected mayor will have the exact opposite effect, replacing the existing undemocratic system with an even less democratic one -an elected dictator in the Council House.

Vote No in the referendum and campaign for a democratised Council

Solidarity Forever