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The Laz Word....on democracy

Larry Neild asks if the people are the losers with an elected mayor

Published on February 6th 2012.


The Laz Word....on democracy

UPDATE: Liverpool City Council voted 62 to 3 against, with 12 councillors abstaining in favour of a directly elected mayor to run the city.

There will be no referendum. Nominations from those wanting to run have to be in by noon on April 4.

The election is open to anybody willing to stump up £500 and have the support of a small number of backers, though there have to be residential or business links with Liverpool.  

The mayoral election will be on May 3, the same day as the election for councillors. The elected mayor will assume office on May 7, 2012.

Current council leader Joe Anderson emerges as frontrunner to win the job. 


Here is what it means, in the view of Larry Neild who exclusively broke the story on Liverpool Confidential three weeks ago.

 

 LIVERPOOL is on the brink of changing the way the city is governed with the introduction of a directly elected Mayor.

The people of the city will decide who is the top honcho in Dale Street, not a small group of councillors huddled around a table in the town hall or Millennium House.

It seems like the perfect solution - allow the voters to choose who they want. But it will be replacing a system dating back to the days of Queen Victoria with what will essentially be a one-man (or one-woman) show.

In 2000, Liverpool had 99 councillors and a load of committees and sub-committees. Despite its faults, it at least meant virtually all decisions affecting the city were decided, on a show of hands, by those 99 councillors.

Fifty or over votes saying yes and it happened; 50 or over votes saying no and it was rejected. People Democracy in action.Council meetings were often nail-biting, cliff hanging occasions, wondering whether particular and sometimes controversial measures would see the light of day.

Some councillors feel virtually redundant or
semi-retired as their power diminishes.

There was a time, in the 1980s, when council meetings started at 11am and the politicians were burning midnight oil in the council chamber until gone midnight. It was decision-making by the people elected by the people to make decisions, and every one of those 99 councillors were vital to this system of people democracy.

In 2000, Prime Minister Tony Blair swept that system away. He wanted a streamlined system of democracy, more engaging, faster and slicker; no more of the months of wrangling as proposals went from sub-committee, to main committee, to the full council, then the supreme body ruling the city.

Joe Anderson5Joe AndersonIn came a system of rule by cabinet, mirroring in major aspects the way the nation is government. Replace 10 Downing Street with the Leader's office in Dale Street and it works the same way.

Decisions were now being made not on a show of hands by the full council, but on a basis of collective responsibility by the cabinet working with council executive directors.

The role of the city council and the councillors was devalued to such a degree, there is now only a handful of full council meetings each year, The full council fixes Council Tax levels at the annual budget meeting and also decides who should be ceremonial Lord Mayor.

But other decisions are taken by the leader and/or cabinet members.

The fewer council meetings taking place still debate all kinds of issues, but cannot overturn things decided by the cabinet.

The leader is chosen by the political group, so current leader Joe Anderson holds this key role because of the support he receives from Labour councillors. Should they wish to, those Labour councillors could give the Leader his marching orders at any time. He is a popular leader so there are no fears of him being shown the door.

In the good – or some would say – bad old days, the councillors would decide on council house rents, entrance fees for swimming pools, car parking charges, building or closing of schools. Now those decisions are taken by executive cabinet councillors and executive directors.

An elected mayor will essentially have all of the power, and though there will be cabinet members, it is the mayor who makes the decisions.

Essentially it means in the space of just over a decade, local decision making has moved from a show of hands by 99 elected councillors to a thumbs up or rejection by a single person, the mayor.

The argument is a mayor elected by the people of the city will have a citywide mandate to run the show, to wave the big flag for the Liverpool, to punch his, or her weight in the world.

You do not even need to be a councillor to win the job, which is why hair guru Herbert Howe has entered the race for the job.

What will become of the councillors who will still be elected by voters to represent their wards? They will still represent their constituents and have what is described as a scrutinising role, keeping a watchful eye on the decisions and performance of the  mayor.

They will not have the opportunity or power to overturn any decisions taken by the mayor. Even now some councillors feel virtually redundant or semi-retired as their power diminishes.

A city mayor will hold the job for four years and it will difficult to remove the person doing the job. Yes, a percentage of people can gather a petition to demand a referendum to scrap the mayoral system, and that process is currently under way in a few cities where some people say they have had enough of being ruled by an elected mayor.

In most cases where there is an elected mayor the first stage was a referendum of the people to decide if they wanted to head down that democratic superhighway.

Liverpool's ruling Labour group, enticed by a £130m goodie bag from the Coalition Government, intend to skip the referendum and head straight to an election for a city mayor on May 3.

That is bound to leave a sour taste among democrats who feel such a dramatic change needs that initial public endorsement.

Democracy yes, but a far different style of democracy to the days when every councillor had to stand up and be counted.


* A special meeting of Liverpool City Council takes place on Tuesday, February 7 to make this historic decision.

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2012.

Our sixty-odd Labour Councillors are being whipped to vote in favour of this, which means this 'democratic' decision is being forced upon an electorate of around 300,000 by a tiny, tiny proportion of voters, ie the councillors. It works out Liverpool will have an elected mayor system with a vote of just 0.002percent of the city's population. How is that democratic? This smacks of the very worst of spin, and our politicians wonder why they are being held in such low esteem by many people. Wouldn't it serve Labour just right if somebody other than a Labour politician won the job. I'd even settle for Mayor Herbert just to rub their little red noses into it.

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2012.

One of the fundemental priciples of a democracy has to be that the person / people in charge do not set the rules of how they are chosen. This is wrong and it should not be allowed to happen in this way.

AD

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2012.

Herbert is the best to lead this city ! Without wanting a wage it make good sense ! WHY give it to a gready councillor ! !

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2012.

I think Professor Chucklebutty should run for it. I really do. Come on, we'll back you.

Absinthe & TurksFebruary 8th 2012.

Hear hear! If we must have one let it be a good one!

Elected mayors are rather self-defeating.

We can either leave the election to a coterie of politicians who think they know what's best for us, or it can be a beauty contest between figures of notoriety and 'celebrity'.

As an example of the latter case, bear in mind how the popularly-elected Mayor of Doncaster won. An "English Democrat" he wowed the prejudices of the electorate with promises to save millions by stop Council funding of "politically correct" causes like services for ethnic minorities and gays.

When he won he found that he had imagined most of what he wanted to stamp out and to abolish what did exist was actually illegal.

The campaign for elected mayors is all just a waste of time and money to distract attention from the real evils in modern Conservative-run-down Britain.

Like the privatisation of utilities, spurious "competition" and "consumer choice" in the Health Service, it is all just to muddy the water so that the man on the street doesn't notice that he is being robbed yet again and he will also be receiving the enormous bill for the cock-up at the end.

Mayor Chucklebutty (Professor)February 8th 2012.

I am running for Mayor, it's just that the local media have imposed a news blackout on my campaign. I can't even get anything in Ms Sammons's organ,

And in answer to the issues raised by Asquith on Turps above. You are quite right. But if they're going to waste money, it's better that it's wasted on me. And let me assure you all that unlike the idiot English Demoprat Donkey of Mayorcaster I will have a big gay budget and plans to plant privit hedges right across the city with free trimmers so that we can all join in the Homotopiary festival, which this year will have an Ethnic minorities and migration theme. Sponsored by the United Kingdom Herbaceous Borders Agency.

Here are the details of my campaign so far.

profchucklebuttychronic.blogspot.com/…/ign.html…

1 Response: Reply To This...
Staff
Angie SammonsFebruary 9th 2012.

Prof, if you run for mayor, we will back you 90 per cent

Absinthe & TurksFebruary 9th 2012.

Hear hear!

HopefulFebruary 9th 2012.

Where do I sign? How do I vote?

This city needs the Professor to take a wire brush and Dettol to they way our city is run!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Mayor Chucklebutty (Professor)February 9th 2012.

It just so happens that I already have both!
So that would come out of my own pocket.....well the sink cupboard I mean, the cost would come out of my pocket. What kind of lunatic walks round with a wire brush and Dettol in their pocket? Good heavens Hopeful, get a grip. You started off well and your support is appreciated but I'm afraid you went off towards the end. or is this product placement, hoping to get a free bottle? Well I've mentioned it as well now so i should get one too. Equality shall be my watchword. And Rolex. That's another watch word. I'll have one of them too. I promise to hold it up when getting my photos taken.

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