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Big Debate: Mayor or may not?

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THE debate on whether an elected mayor should run Sheffield is back in the news.A variation on the plans is now proposed, for mayors to run not only cities but also their surrounding areas. Richard Marsden reports.

The prospect of directly-elected mayors covering wider areas has been raised after former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine and former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy proposed a Merseyside Mayor in a report commissioned by David Cameron into how to turn around Liverpool.

Adopting city region mayors would be a dramatic advance beyond the Government’s current plans, which are to hold referendums in England’s 11 largest urban areas, including Sheffield, about whether people want an elected mayor to run their city.

But the idea is similar to how Mayor of London Boris Johnson operates, covering all boroughs within the capital.

Sheffield City Region covers eight councils – Barnsley, Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Doncaster, North East Derbyshire, Rotherham and Sheffield.

The main Labour and Lib Dem groups on Sheffield Council are opposed to elected mayors but opinion is divided within the wider community.

FOR:

STEEL tycoon Andrew Cook, (pictured right), chairman of William Cook Holdings, based off Sheffield Parkway, believes an elected mayor would provide stronger leadership and help make the city a more prosperous place to do business.

“Having an elected mayor is an excellent idea but I am in favour of one for the city alone, rather than a regional one.

“I think large cities like Sheffield currently lack the driving force that an elected mayor brings to cities in the United States and countries in Europe, such as France.

“However, having the role for a region would dilute its importance.

“At the moment, we have a sterile local government situation with a ceremonial mayor who has no authority.

“Having an elected mayor with the right calibre would help the area by ensuring big decisions can be taken to help the local economy and provide strong leadership.

“Having the right person in the role would give the council a kick up the behind.

“The fact the control of the council can change as often as every year is not helpful. Mayors who are elected once every four or five years would be able to think with a more long-term view.”

AGAINST:

RETIRED hospital housekeeper Jacqueline Milner (pictured right), secretary of Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group, believes elected mayors would reduce democratic accountability.

“Looking at the experience of Doncaster and London, where there are elected mayors, I think 90 per cent of people have no idea what difference the role makes.

“Before making a decision, the public should be better informed before there is any referendum so they know what they are voting for.

“However, I am against the idea. If you end up with the wrong person, you are stuck with them for a long while and cannot get rid of them.

“With the current system, it is a good thing that elections take place every three years out of four, because it means the council has to pay attention to the public.

“There is a danger that having an elected mayor would put too much power in the hands of one person for too long a period.

“The other issue is getting enough people to turn out and vote. If the turnout is how it is for council elections, with only a third of people voting, the mayor would not have a proper democratic mandate for such a long period.”

READERS’ VIEWS:

Shaun Holland, 56, Stocktaker, Birley: “I don’t think having an elected mayor will make much difference because people tend to vote for personality rather than party.”

Zoe Loveday, 22, Marketing assistant, Dinington: “Having a mayor serving four years is better than the current system because long term plans can be made in the city’s interests even if they are not popular. Just making policies to win elections each year isn’t necessarily a good thing.”

Thomas Marshall, 23, University researcher, Dinnington: “More information should be made available about how elected Mayors would operate before people are asked to make up their minds.”

Albert Hudson, 89, Retired bricklayer, Norfolk Park: “I’m not too bothered about changing things myself but everyone has their own views. There’s not much information about the plans, though. People need to be informed about what the system would be like.”

Richard Parker, 45, Civil Servant, Waterthorpe: “Elected mayors are a good thing. People say they mean too much power is in the hands of one person but London’s experience shows the idea can work well.”

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