‘An elected mayor will be too powerful,’ is the refrain from campaigners against the idea.
They couldn’t be more wrong. Perish the thought that we might have had someone strong enough to stand up to the Government about Forgemasters.
Or to demand that the Chancellor includes Sheffield in the 10 cities receiving £10 million each to fund ultrafast broadband.
Sheffield needs an elected mayor because the status quo means having sand kicked in our faces. It means waiting for the next slap in the face from a London-based official who needs a map to even find where we are.
Some of our councillors don’t much like the idea of an elected mayor, which is strange as Cameron, Miliband and Clegg are all strongly in favour. As are most voters, according to a recent poll.
Anyway, it’s not our councillors’ choice. It’s mine. Your yours. And the decision of half a million fellow Sheffielders in a city-wide referendum on May 3.
It’s a rare chance for us – the people –to show we are sick of Sheffield being overlooked and let down.
The choice is whether we keep a council leader, chosen in private from among the controlling group on the council, or change to a mayor, elected by the whole city.
What’s the difference?
Well, an elected mayor will be a high-profile champion for the city pulling people together for the common good, working with trade unions, business leaders and the voluntary sector to get things done and punch our weight as England’s fourth largest city.
Or we can stick with the existing system where decisions are made behind closed doors. Where there’s minimal consultation and Town Hall intrigue and plotting always comes first.
As a community activist, I’ve been happy to work with our last four council leaders – two Labour, two Lib Dems. I have the highest regards for each of them. But the role of council leader is not the same as an elected mayor.
Our leaders run the Town Hall – they don’t lead the city. Only a mayor with extra powers and unlimited ambition for Sheffield can do that.
And much needs doing.
We have too much poverty and unemployment. Too many kids leave school, barely able to read and write.
Too many people struggle to get by.
So, yes, I want a powerful mayor. Guilty as charged.
I want someone with the power to get things done.
I want a mayor to pick-up the phone to Britain’s largest companies and sell Sheffield as a place to come and invest.
And I want a mayor who bangs on the door of government ministers and demands a better deal for our city.
We can keep what we’ve got and wait for the scraps off the table as usual, or we can change to having a strong mayor and demand that we’re sitting at the table in future.
That’s the difference.
That’s the choice: the status quo or a new, better way of leading Sheffield.
But only if we choose an elected mayor on May 3.
Please make sure you do.
Kevin Meagher, Chairman of the Mayor4Sheffield campaign