Drive for powerful Newcastle mayor is launched

A CAMPAIGN has been launched urging people to back the idea of an elected mayor for Newcastle.

A CAMPAIGN has been launched urging people to back the idea of an elected mayor for Newcastle.

Set up by former city councillor and Newcastle Conservative chairman Brian Moore, Newcastle Mayor is being touted as an independent campaign to convince voters to back an elected mayor to run the city.

Organisers say they have the backing of local politicians, business leaders and community groups.

Currently Newcastle City Council has an executive made up of Liberal Democrats, which votes on all key decisions. In places where elected mayors have already been installed, that individual has taken on those powers.

Supporters say having a single figurehead, like Boris Johnson in London, would give residents more power to choose who runs their city, though others disagree.

Mr Moore said: “Elected city mayors are commonplace across the democratic world. The elected mayor provides a focus for local democracy, which our system of councillors electing leaders from among their number has rarely done.

“We want to see the leader of Newcastle City Council chosen by the people and not by a handful of councillors. The decisions taken by the leader of the council can be significant but their accountability is to voters in just one of the 26 wards in the city.

“Currently, no one is elected by the whole of Newcastle and has a real legitimacy to speak for it. Local elections tend to end up as a referendum on the number of pictures of potholes in leaflets or the national government and not on the future of our city.

“Now is the time for the people of Newcastle to take back the reins of power and elect someone who can represent the whole city.”

Jason Smith, a local campaigner in the outer west of Newcastle and supporter of the campaign, said: “The election of a mayor has transformed London. The democratic legitimacy of someone elected to represent the city has reinvigorated the governance of London and Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson are both national figures.

“Under an elected mayor, there is still a role for councillors, representing their communities and overseeing the work of Newcastle City Council but an elected mayor will have real legitimacy to fight for the interests of our city and to stand up to national Government.

“At a time when people are making their New Year resolutions, there is an opportunity to stand up for change in the way our city is run. We are extending an invitation to people who live or work in Newcastle to support the campaign and for local businesses and community groups to join the expanding list of supporters who want to make our great city better.”

Communities secretary Eric Pickles confirmed in October that the coalition Government would hold referenda on elected mayors in Newcastle and 11 other major cities.

But the plan has already been criticised by senior Newcastle figures of both main political parties.

Last month Labour peer Jeremy Beecham said: “It fundamentally changes the nature of local government which in my view reduces accountability, particularly at the level of councillors themselves.”

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