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Does city want elected mayor? Liverpool leaders 'unenthusiastic' about new system.

Byline: MARC WADDINGTON

THE public of Liverpool are to be asked for their views on whether to adopt an elected mayoral system for the city.

The change would see the scrapping of the current arrangement of having a council leader and cabinet.

It would favour a nominated candidate for mayor who would be directly elected by public poll, rather than the current system in which the leader is chosen from within the party which holds the majority in the council chamber.

But, while pressure groups are supportive of the change, there is little enthusiasm among the city leadership.

Public consultations in other Merseyside boroughs suggest there is little interest in the idea, with only 0.001% of the electorate, responding to the exercise in Sefton.

A consultation in Liverpool in 2001 managed to arouse the interest of 1% of the electorate, of which 28% plumped for the mayor and cabinet model.

But Cllr Bradley said he did not believe there was a strong enough case for bringing in the changes.

He said the system would not be like the American elected mayor set-up, in which the police and other services are accountable directly to the first citizen. In the UK, an elected mayor would have no such direct executive power.

Cllr Bradley said: "I think the leader and cabinet model works, it is open and transparent and does not leave all the power in one person's hands.

"Everyone always points to the successful mayors, but there's not many of them around the country, so we've always got to take account of that."

The public consultation, to begin before the end of the year, is in response to demands laid down by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. But the Government does not stipulate a favoured option, and only requires councils to ratify either the existing arrangements or adopt the elected mayor model.

And because the current set-up was not decided by referendum, there will be no referendum on the plans unless the council chooses one as part of the consultation process or a receives a valid petition calling for one.

Labour group leader Cllr Anderson warned that an elected system had inherent dangers that personality would come before politics.

Cllr Anderson said: "What if some celebrity comes along who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but has the charisma and people like what they sound off about, but they don't understand the needs of the city or have specialist knowledge they need? They could cock it up dramatically."

Liam Fogarty, who supports an elected mayor, said when people were properly confronted with the facts, they were "broadly supportive".

The council must pass a resolution adopting one of the two systems by December 31.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 8, 2009
Words:459
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