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Birmingham to get an elected mayor..

5276 Views 56 Replies 28 Participants Last post by  Nessyjord
..whether it wants one or not

Whitehall is to impose an elected mayor on Birmingham without asking residents whether they want one, ministers have confirmed.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill let the cat out of the bag at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, when he confirmed a referendum would be held – but only after a mayor had been created.

Ministers will impose dramatic changes on local government and then ask residents at a later date whether they want to stick with the reforms or go back to the old system.

There has been speculation since May that the coalition Government planned to force big cities to adopt mayors, but this is the first time Ministers have confirmed the plan.

Meriden MP Caroline Spelman, a former Shadow Local Government Secretary, revealed last year that Conservatives wanted to create mayors in Britain’s 12 biggest cities, including Birmingham and Coventry,

She said that referenda would be held in the cities first, to discover whether local residents wanted a mayor or not.

But the detailed programme for government published by the Lib Dem/ Conservative coalition in May, stated: “We will create elected mayors in the 12 largest English cities, subject to confirmatory referendums and full scrutiny by elected councillors.”

It was unclear what “confirmatory” meant, and ministers refused to explain whether the policy had changed.

Local government minister Bob Neill has now confirmed that mayors will be put in place first and a referendum held later, in an interview with the Local Government Chronicle. Asked how confirmatory referendums would work in practice, he said: “[The question will be] we have set up these things, do you want to stick with them?”

And asked if that would mean existing council leaders being made mayors, he replied: “That would seem the easiest way of doing things, yes.”

The policy is likely to spark fury among opponents of a mayor, who include Conservative city council leader Mike Whitby.

The Birmingham Post’s sister paper, the Birmingham Mail, launched a campaign in 2007 calling for a referendum on a directly-elected mayor. Despite gathering 10,000 signatures it fell far short of the 36,000 needed to trigger a ballot under legislation in force at the time. But the campaign also sparked a backlash from councillors fiercely opposed to a mayoral system.

The Government’s stance also appears to fly in the face of Conservative pledges to devolve power to local communities, as it means a major change is taking place in local government without consulting residents.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles refused to answer questions about a referendum when quizzed by journalists during the party conference. But in his speech to delegates, he confirmed his enthusiasm for elected mayors.

Mr Pickles said: “I believe elected mayors in cities will be embraced by the public if they have real powers. It’s time for Home Rule for our cities, from Birmingham to Bristol, from Newcastle to Liverpool.

“Just over a hundred years ago, the power of civic pride and mayoral leadership was plain to see right here, in Birmingham. Imagine what could be achieved by a 21st century generation of Joe Chamberlains, championing civic pride and social renewal.”

Mr Neill’s admission was criticised by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming (Yardley). He said: “It doesn’t sound very sensible to me. And it raises the possibility of somebody standing for the post of mayor on a platform of abolishing the post.”

Labour MP Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) said: “I think a directly elected mayor will be a good thing for Birmingham but it is getting off to a bad start if the Government can’t be up-front about its intentions.”

So far, only one candidate for the post of Mayor of Birmingham has officially come forward – former Labour Erdington MP Sion Simon.
Personally i think its great, maybe we might finally see some changes in this city, big changes
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about time, I don't know anyone from Brum who had a chance to vote for this the last time, oops I forgot its likely the f****** councillors voted on our behalf that they don't want a boss who will make all of them actually do some work.
A potentially VERY scary update on this:

Mike Whitby could be combined Birmingham mayor and council chief executive

* by Paul Dale, Birmingham Post
* Mar 24 2011

Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby could be on course to take over as the authority’s chief executive – ousting Stephen Hughes from his £204,000-a-year job.

Under the Localism Bill, Coun Whitby will become shadow mayor of Birmingham at the end of the year, could remain in office unopposed until 2014 and may also opt to assume the duties carried out by Mr Hughes.

Legislation passing through Parliament makes it possible for Coun Whitby to become both the city’s political leader as well as the most senior official of Britain’s biggest local authority, overseeing 26,000 employees.

Coun Whitby would have the power to hire and fire chief officers, a sanction currently in the hands of a committee of senior councillors, even though he would not himself be an employee of the city council.

In theory, Mr Hughes could remain under the new arrangements, as head of the council’s paid service with a lower salary, but his chief executive title would disappear along with many of his powers.

Confusion remains about how long Coun Whitby, who has led the council’s Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition since 2004, will have as appointed shadow mayor before Birmingham’s first mayoral election.

Although the Bill refers to mayors being elected in England on the same day as council elections in May 2013, the West Midlands metropolitan authorities, including Birmingham, do not have elections scheduled during that year.

That could delay the election of a Birmingham mayor until May 2014 but city council leaders have appealed to the Government to allow a mayoral vote to take place in 2013.

Under the Bill as it was presented to Parliament, Coun Whitby would remain shadow mayor even if Labour takes control of the council in May 2012.

That was thought likely to change as the Bill passes through its committee stage, enabling Labour leader Sir Albert Bore to assume the shadow mayor position should his party win an overall majority of seats next year.

Coun Whitby does not have to accept all or any of the powers proposed under the Localism Bill.

If he wants to take advantage of the full range of powers available, effectively becoming chief executive as well as mayor, he would have to ask the council to approve the arrangements.

Calls by the Birmingham Post to Coun Whitby’s office on the mayoral issue were not returned.

The way the legislation is framed means Birmingham could face a constitutional nightmare next year since most councillors, including Coun Whitby, are opposed to the mayoral system.

The 120 city councillors could vote to refuse to grant extensive powers to a mayor, should Coun Whitby make a formal application for full mayoral rights – something that would bring Birmingham into direct confrontation with the Government.

Mirza Ahmad, the council’s director of corporate governance, pointed out that all but one of the cities where there were currently mayors also had chief executives.

He said getting rid of the chief executive would be a “symbolic” gesture, but the council would still need a head of paid service as it was a statutory requirement.

Mr Ahmad said: “The status quo would remain in Birmingham until the shadow mayor wanted more powers.

“It is clear the next year or so will be of great constitutional interest to a lot of people in Birmingham.”

Getting rid of highly paid council chief executives has the backing of Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has urged local authorities to cut costs by sharing senior administrative staff.

The city council’s formal position is to oppose many of the mayoral arrangements set out in the Localism Bill.

In a submission to the Government, Dr Ahmad argued some of the powers proposed for a Birmingham mayor may turn out to be unlawful and could be overturned by the courts.

The submission warned: “While the arrangements make it clear the authority’s head of paid service would report to the elected mayor and that the elected mayor holds office on such reasonable terms and conditions, including conditions as to remuneration, as the authority thinks fit, it is unclear why the elected mayor would become the most senior officer of the local authority or what would be the legal impact of such a provision as the mayor would still not be an employee of the council.

"Accordingly, this particular requirement could well be void for uncertainty, as a matter of legislative construction.”

The contents of the submission have cross-party backing and have been approved by the council’s Business Management Committee.

The document described as “undemocratic” a move to reduce the powers enjoyed by councillors.

When the Bill becomes law, the full council will only be able to overturn a proposal put forward by the mayor if at least two-thirds of members vote against it.

Mr Ahmad added: “We hope the Government will take notice of our submission and make appropriate changes to the Localism Bill.”

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I don't dispute Whitby's passion for the city just his overall competence.

LDJ for mayor.
I don't particularly like Lord Digby Jones for the Mayor, all the times i have seen him and heard him talk about the city and about its future it seems very tunnelled down one route which is why we are struggling already.

I think we need someone who has a more rounded perspective who can bring people in like LDJ to use there knowledge and skills in the areas appropriate whilst providing the wider reaching strategic influence. Who that maybe i don't know yet but i don't believe LDJ is it.
I think elected Majors are a great idea, but I really hope Digby Jones doesn't represent Birmingham. I think he comes across as arrogant and selfish- I don't think he speaks for anyone who isn't part of the business community.
Birmingham Post are meant to be running a story about a media person in the city possibly running for mayor.

Mayor Doolan anyone?
Didn't see that one coming
Early April Fools? :poke:
On Central Tonight the other day Lucy Kite asked Bob what all this Mayor thing with him was about. She even held up The Birmingham Post!

Called him "Your Lordship". Bob corrected Lucy saying he wouldn't be Lord Mayor, just an elected Mayor. Never the less they did a mock up of Bob in Lord Mayor robes.
Bob, Dibgy or Karren. Whitby when hell freezes over...
I dont know about those three, Bob what experience does he have of anything similar (he only reads the news and he sometimes fucks that up), Digby, he's too narrow minded and will put all our eggs in one basket so to speak and Karen how suitable would it be to have a woman in charge that was filmed drunk on the beach in Dubai on Piers Morgan's documentary into Dubai. Whitby is OK I think but I think we should be looking for someone like Joseph Chamberlain it's just what this city needs right now, just like it did in his time.
Campaign backing elected Birmingham Mayor kicks off

by Neil Elkes, Birmingham Post
Aug 4 2011

A group of young professionals have teamed up to launch the official campaign for an elected mayor for Birmingham.

The Yes to Birmingham Mayor campaign could not be more different to the 'no' campaign launched by MPs John Hemming and Roger Godsiff two weeks ago.

While that campaign is fronted by a pair of middle-aged, seasoned front line politicians, the 'yes' camp is a broad group of media, business and public sector professionals.

Julia Higginbottom, from Aquila TV, social media developer Jon Bounds, Centro's head of strategy Alex Burrows and Nick Morgan and Chris Brown of Big Cat marketing are among the team preparing the fledgling 'yes' campaign for an official launch in September.

Ms Higginbottom said: "We are not politicians. We are a grass roots campaign and we are going to grow."

The group are keen to mobilise support ahead of the referendum on an elected mayor due to be held next May and are also looking for sponsors to help with costs of posters, leaflets and promotions as they believe there is going to be no official Government finance for the referendum.
I was speaking with Julia yesterday and she is looking for, 'vibrant good quality strong images that reflect Brum well', to use in the campaign, so any of the photographers on here might be able to help.
I was speaking with Julia yesterday and she is looking for, 'vibrant good quality strong images that reflect Brum well', to use in the campaign, so any of the photographers on here might be able to help.
Im liking the Positive talk ;-)
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