Elected mayors: Ed Miliband's little local difficulty

Ed Miliband speaking at Sheffield University Ed Miliband believes that directly elected executive mayors are a good idea

Labour leader Ed Miliband says he thinks directly elected executive mayors are a good idea.

But he's not having much success persuading Labour council leaders in his own back yard of that.

Four Yorkshire cities have been ordered by the government to hold a referendum on whether the current way of running them should be scrapped to make way for executive mayors.

They are among the largest 11 cities in England where ballots will be held on the same day.

All of the Yorkshire cities, Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield and Wakefield, currently have Labour councillors sitting in the leader's office.

All have given a collective thumbs down to the change.

They feel executive mayors, voted into office for an impregnable five year term with powers to enforce policies which bypass the traditional council, are a bad idea.

No home advantage?

All of those Yorkshire Labour leaders have indicated that they will ignore Ed Miliband's view and vote with the 'no' campaigns when the ballots are held in May.

In fact, Ed Miliband's position on executive mayors became even more isolated even closer to home.

In Doncaster, the only place in Yorkshire already run by an executive mayor, a campaign has forced an entirely separate referendum aimed at getting rid of the office.

Peter Davies Doncaster's Peter Davies was voted in at the last mayoral election in 2009

Doncaster is where Ed Miliband sits as an MP.

The driving force behind the campaign to get rid of the office of executive mayor is the town's Labour Party.

Of course, there is a little local difficulty for the Labour Party in Doncaster which has triggered its ferocious animosity to mayors.

For generations the town at the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfields returned an overwhelmingly Labour controlled council.

But at the last mayoral elections in 2009 it dumped the Labour candidate and voted in Peter Davies, a rank outsider from the little known, right wing party the English Democrats.

The war of words between the mayor, the majority Labour Group and virtually every other councillor from a mainstream group made the town virtually ungovernable in the months after the election.

For the past 18 months it has been overseen by a squad of "advisors" sent by the Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.

Confusion or stability?

Start Quote

Ed Miliband

I disagree with many of Peter Davies' policies and views but it does not mean that an executive mayor cannot bring advantages of efficiency and stability to the town”

End Quote Ed Miliband (Lab)

Ed Miliband brushes off the Doncaster example.

"I disagree with many of Peter Davies' policies and views but it does not mean that an executive mayor cannot bring advantages of efficiency and stability to the town."

He could have a point.

In Leeds and Sheffield, where referendums are taking place, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been swapping control for a decade or more.

In Bradford the political instability has been even more extreme. All three parties have had a hand on power in that same period.

Some would call that democracy in action.

Others might say it just leads to gross inefficiency and confusion.

That is likely to be at the heart of the argument when it is put to the ballot in May.

Len Tingle Article written by Len Tingle Len Tingle Political editor, Yorkshire

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  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    The electorate didnt get a chance to vote for the Doncaster Mayor because of the form of transefable vote system employed.
    On a turnout of 35.8% 74,966, 22.6% voted for him in the first round of votes, around 8% of the electoate. 4% chose him as a second preference vote.
    3 candidates achived 22.x%, had that choice been put to the elctorate the result would have been representative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Peter Davies is a good mayor. How typical of the BBC to call him right wing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    The changes to the administration of local government in recent years have been counter-productive. Elected mayors and the establishment of "cabinets" have taken power and responsibility away from Council members and led to the professionalisation of politics - and salaries and costs to match - which is not in the interests of local democracy or public accountability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Totally agree with #1, about time the little cliques in the councils had a shake up and their cosy little deals put under a bit more scrutiny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Many councils are elected from a minority of the eligible to vote electorate. As many as 4 out of 5 did not vote their councillor into office in some areas. A political gang elected by 1 in 5 of the eligible to vote electorate then choose the Mayor hardly fair is it?. At least with a directly elected Mayor the whole electorate can choose may be someone sensible. Educated Ed?



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