Campaigners put Plymouth elected mayor proposal back in the spotlight

By PATRICK DALY Political Reporter @thepatrickdaly

Elected mayor supporters - Kevin Kelway (right) pictured with Neil Pick, Kayleigh Osborne, Ian Fleming, Henry Hitchins, Trevor Lowman and Lena Van Onzenoodt

Elected mayor supporters – Kevin Kelway (right) pictured with Neil Pick, Kayleigh Osborne, Ian Fleming, Henry Hitchins, Trevor Lowman and Lena Van Onzenoodt

 CAMPAIGNERS have re-ignited ambitions to have an elected mayor in Plymouth, 12 years after the city voted against the proposal.

Business leaders have backed the campaign being spearheaded by Kevin Kelway, the man who helped save Tinside Lido, saying they believe it will be good for democracy and the city’s future.

The team is looking to collect 10,000 signatures which would trigger a referendum vote in May, coinciding with the General Election.

Having the referendum at the same time as next year’s national and local elections will keep costs to a minimum and ensure strong voter turnout, according to Mr Kelway.

Bristol, Liverpool, Leicester and Torbay all have directly elected mayors.

“The big thing to look at with an elected mayor is that, rather than local councillors deciding who the leader is, the people of Plymouth will get to decide,” Mr Kelway said.

“I think it makes the leader more accountable.”

Plymouth currently has a system whereby the leader of the political party that secures the most council seats during a local election automatically becomes leader of the council. The leader of each party is elected by members of their party, not by the whole electorate.

Under the elected mayoral system, individuals would campaign to become mayor and the city would vote every four-years for who they want in power.

The mayor would then put together their cabinet, made up of elected councillors, although they could call on unelected advisers to assist, Mr Kelway explained.

Mr Kelway is proposing that elected mayors would serve a maximum of two terms, meaning no leader could be in charge for more than eight years.

The ceremonial position of Lord Mayor would continue to exist, he added.

Plymouth held a postal vote in January 2002 to decide whether to change to the elected mayoral system. Nearly 43,000 people voted ‘no’, securing 59 per cent of the vote.

But Mr Kelway believes this is an opportune time to revisit the issue one last time.

“People are talking about local politics again after the Scottish referendum so this is the time to look at what having an elected mayor in Plymouth might look like and give people the choice,” explained the director of public relations firm Dorcas Media.

A number of businesses joined the call for an elected mayor.

Chief executives of Clever Student Lets and Tellus Group, Henry Hutchins and Neil Pick respectively, have both lent their name to the cause, along with fashion designer Patriciah Petrie and sports coach Ntully Tremmeer.

“For the last 100 years we have had the same old, same old, and the city is falling behind other cities like Exeter,” said Mr Hutchins.

“If we are going to be serious about giving more powers to English cities then having a directly elected mayor is an exciting opportunity.”

Mr Pick added: “The great thing about an elected mayor is that the leader of the city will be accountable to the electorate and not party machines, and he or she will stand or fall on their manifesto commitments every four years.”

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