"What I think about directly-elected mayors": YouGov panellist blogs their views

May 09, 2012, 10:47 AM GMT+0

Part-time consultant Chris, a 63 year-old from Wakefield, writes the first of our panellist posts on the recent mayoral elections.

Ten English cities held referendums last week to see whether or not the time was ripe to appoint a directly-elected mayor, taking their lead from Watford, Doncaster, Liverpool, and – of course – London.

Yet in the end, the results of May 3rd's vote found a staggering nine of these ten cities said 'no' to taking on a directly-elected mayor.

Wanting to get YouGov panellists' personal relections in the fall-out from the vote, we invited you to submit your commentaries on the issue, to see what individuals were saying about the referendums.

In Wakefield, 62.2% of voters said 'no' to appointing a directly-elected mayor.

About Chris:

He works part-time as a consultant for voluntary organisations.

Chris says that “in theory he was in favour [of directly-elected mayors], but wanted much, much more information.”

**(Please note: this is Chris’ personal perspective, and does not necessarily reflect the views of YouGov.)

“I live in Wakefield, and like every other elector in the district, had a copy of the leaflet explaining about the forthcoming referendum.

“It told me almost nothing. So I checked on the Council’s website for more information – what did all this mean? None the wiser from that visit I checked the website of one of the other Councils holding a referendum – that too had almost identical information, and it didn’t do much informing!

“Having an enquiring mind, I read what others had to say on the subject, but what interested me, was ‘What does the ordinary voter think about elected Mayors?’. They are after all the ones who would choose, through our local referendum.

“I have seen comments from some members of the public – the main sticking point seemed to be the cost of paying an elected mayor, and the cost of a referendum.

“I joined a public debate recently, arguing in favour of expenses for Councillors, but the opposing point of view that Councillors should ‘do it for the good of their community, and forgo expenses’, is sadly one held by many people, reflecting (and I understand why) the national cynicism about politicians in general. This cuts across all shades of politics.

“You would think (wouldn’t you?) that those who had been investing energy in this campaign would want to find ways of giving us some information about the facts. But it was sadly lacking.

“Mr Cameron told us we are on the brink of an exciting democratic change: ‘one day when you can change the course of your city’ (Bristol in this case).

“In Wakefield an ordinary Councillor receives a monthly basic allowance of £915.43. Those with added responsibilities get special allowances. The current Leader gets £3749.69 – The job is no doubt worth that figure. There is experience from other towns of the costs of elected mayors. Could we not have had some balanced, objective information about the relative costs?

“Even more than the costs, I wanted to know what it would MEAN, to me and to other residents of Wakefield.

“As it happens, I am in theory in favour of the principle of directly electing a mayor, rather than indirectly electing a leader. I don’t want to hand power to a single all-powerful individual.

“On the other hand, I have no difficulty with an idea which challenges the way things have always been done. Who will tell me where the balance of power will lie?

“I wanted more information, about the costs, the powers, and the likely impact. Without that, no-one could have expected me to vote ‘yes’ in this referendum, and if Mr Cameron is right, May 3rd was our one chance to vote on this matter.”

  • Do you agree or disagree with the arguments that Chris, a YouGov panellist, put forward in his commentary?
  • If your city was one of those who held a referendum on May 3rd, how well-informed did you feel as to what a directly-elected mayor would mean for your local area?
  • How interested in the debate were you?

Join the discussion on directly-elected mayors in the comment box below