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Tighter timetable would focus mayoral minds

Tighter timetable would focus mayoral minds

🕔09.Sep 2011

PRO-elected mayor campaigners in Birmingham believe their fight to shorten the period between the referendum and any mayoral election proper has been strengthened by the Government’s announcement of the date of elections for the new local police commissioners.

The Prime Minister confirmed that the new police and crime commissioners – including one for the West Midlands – will be chosen by the electorate on November 15, 2012.

The news came on the very day that a Birmingham delegation met communities secretary Eric Pickles to press for the mayoral election to be held in the autumn of 2012 rather than May 2013.

The delegation, comprising Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart, the Bishop of Birmingham and veteran Tory Sir Bernard Zissman among others, argued that an ‘interregnum’ of 12 months following any yes vote would lead to Birmingham becoming a ‘decision free zone’ as politicians and officers counted down to a major overhaul of both the structure and leadership of the local authority.

But with the commissioner election confirmed for autumn next year, the delegation was also able to make the case for the two polls to be synchronised to save money and time.

Encouraged by the reaction of Mr Pickles and his advisers, a Lords amendment to the Localism Bill has now been tabled by Lord Adonis (who accompanied the delegation) and the Bishop.

It suggests a new clause:

 “Regulations in respect of the first mayoral elections in 2012 shall provide for the elections to take place on 15 November 2012, the same day as the first elections for police and crime commissioners.”

If the amendment is successful, the shortening of the timetable would focus the minds of those on both sides of the referendum campaign. A short six-month gap between the referendum and the actual mayoral election (with the summer break in the middle), leaves precious little time for any serious candidate to gain campaign traction if they don’t break cover until the referendum result is known.

That means we are much more likely to see more mayoral hopefuls coming forward in the next few months – which will do more to spark interest and widen public debate about elected mayors than anything we have seen this far.

  • The other members of the delegation were Julia Higginbottom, who is heading the official ‘yes’ campaign, Bill Cooper, KPMG’s Birmingham-based local government partner, and West Midlands businesswoman Angela Maxwell OBE. I also accompanied the delegation, representing RJF Public Affairs, the publisher of The Chamberlain Files. One of RJF’s objectives is to help develop policies and influence legislation to secure better outcomes for the West Midlands.

Image: Anusorn P nachol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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