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Birmingham mayoral delegation to see Eric Pickles: what it wants

Birmingham mayoral delegation to see Eric Pickles: what it wants

🕔02.Sep 2011

Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart believes Brummies should be able to decide who they want as mayor in exactly 12 months’ time, rather than waiting to May 2013 – assuming the referendum favours the mayoral idea at all.

She’s pulled together a delegation including the Bishop of Birmingham, Tory veteran Sir Bernard Zissman and others (including me), which will see Mr Pickles on Wednesday September 7.

This is what the covering letter says:

Dear Eric Pickles

We write as firm supporters of the proposal to create a directly-elected executive Mayor to lead Birmingham.  We are united in the view that such a position will provide the clear, accountable and strategic leadership that the nation’s second city needs and will be actively campaigning for a “yes” vote in the referendum that will be held in May 2012.

However, we are concerned by the provisions for handling the transition to an executive Mayoralty, following a “yes” vote.  Under the timetable set out in the Localism Bill, the first Mayoral election would not take place until May 2013, a full year after the referendum.  It is our view that such a delay is not in Birmingham’s best interests.

One of the major arguments in favour of an elected Mayoralty is the need to give strong leadership to the city and deliver greater clarity in decision making.  However, delaying the first election until 2013 will effectively deprive the city of exactly that kind of leadership for a further twelve months, leaving hiatus and uncertainty in its place.

It is inevitable that, from the moment a “yes” vote is secured, Council officials and stakeholders in the public and private sector alike will be focused upon the impending new era of Mayoral governance.  Decisions will not made and just deferred; there is a real danger of paralysis afflicting the city’s politics, if the period between referendum result and inaugural election is not shortened.

We are aware that in a number of other localities, there is an argument for holding mayoral elections on the same day as the scheduled municipal elections, in order to reduce costs.  This argument does not apply in Birmingham, as 2013 is a “fallow year” with no municipal elections scheduled.   Therefore, it makes even less sense to defer the vote until the following May, as the costs will be identical if it is held several months earlier.

Given this, we would ask that the Government amends the provisions of the Localism Bill in order to allow authorities like Birmingham to hold their inaugural Mayoral election at an earlier date of their choosing.  This would minimise the uncertainty caused by delay, ensure that new governance arrangements can be embedded quickly and would be wholly in keeping with the principles of localism that underpin the legislation.





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