Letter - Weaken the system

HAVING served as an elected representative in Wakefield for over 30 years, I would like to add my voice to the many others who have spoken out in opposition to the proposal for a directly elected mayor.

One of the many lessons I have learned during my time in politics is that where there is a consensus on policy between New Labour and the Conservatives, as there has been on this issue, then that policy has often not been fully thought through and its likely consequences should be examined very carefully. The marketisation of the NHS, PFI and the invasion of Iraq are three other obvious examples.

Apart from the obvious point that it is particulary difficult to justify huge additional expenditure on this office at a time when key local services are being drastically cut, the idea of placing significant power in the hands of one individual, capable of being challenged only by a two-thirds vote of the local authority, takes decision-making even further away from the public.

My experience has been that people are best served locally when all their elected representatives – whether in the controlling party or opposition – are directly involved in shaping the decisions which affect them. Directly elected mayors reduce the ability of the electorate to influence policy.

Far from enhancing local government and making it work more effectively in the interests of the local population, such a system would weaken it.

Why, with an elected mayor, would good local candidates seek election as councillors when their role has been reduced to mere bystanders and they have no chance of serious influence?

I hope there will be an excellent turn-out in the forthcoming local elections and that common sense prevails with a resounding no vote on the mayoral referendum.

David Hinchliffe

Former MP for Wakefield