Headlines: June 26th, 2002

The Government appears to be losing interest in the concept of elected mayors – a new breed of accountable civic figurehead to re-ignite people’s interest in local democracy.It’s decided not to use its powers to force three councils to ballot local people on whether and elected mayor should be introduced in Birmingham, Bradford and Thurrock.

It says that even though it feels each of these councils failed to have due regard to the outcome of local consultations, it is leaving the decision on whether to go to the next stage and hold a referendum, to the councils themselves.

Each of the councils has failed to hold a referendum to offer the new position of elected mayor, even though consultation and local campaigning has shown there is interest.

The Government says its decision is about offering greater freedoms to local councils to make their own decisions.

It also follows a series of embarrassing defeats for Labour at the mayoral elections held so far. The party finished third in London where the independent Ken Livingstone was elected. At recent English local elections, Monkey mascot Stuart Drummond was elected mayor in Hartlepool, and in Middlesbrough, a former police chief Ray Mallon, known as ‘Robocop’, won despite strong Labour opposition.

The New Local Government Network, which has been lobbying strongly for a known figurehead to revitalize local democracy, says it’s clear the ‘dynamics behind the mayoral agenda have changed’. It still hopes the current crop of elected mayors will prove a success and encourage people elsewhere to push for a change to how they’re governed.