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People Power! Part Two

By: Todd Bontoft
Date: 25/09/2000

Last July there was no alternative, but thanks to the national government and an insatiable appetite to reform and modernise local government there is a way to have a person in power by May 2001 that we know will support a new stadium. Yes there really is a way to make a major difference and one that need not lead to us all acrimoniously breaking up into disparate political opinions but will keep us together and deliver the common aim of seeing home our beloved Black and Whites into their new stadium. Please bear with me as I explain below.

I am suggesting that, should all else fail, we have the answer to genuinely galvanise into action local people and supporters. Transforming local democracy as well as potentially attracting major media coverage.

The government has passed a law for a major shake-up of local government and each council has a legal duty to 'consult' the public on a choice of three models, one of which must be implemented by May 2001. You will not be surprised to note that North East Lincolnshire Council appear, so far, to be less than enthusiastic on the consultation front.

By contrast the neighbouring authority of North Lincolnshire Council is actively seeking views during September and October on the wishes of its voters. Ironically they are sending questionnaires to every household within their boundary in a not dissimilar fashion to Grimsby Town when consulting over the Great Coates' stadium. But if you recall our councillors totally ignored 'that survey'.

But back to the point in hand, the three models are:

  • 1) Leader and Cabinet - the council appoint a leader from their number (i.e. by the council), with a cabinet appointed by the leader or the council - you will not be surprised to learn this is the council's preferred structure and one they are currently pioneering!

  • 2) Elected Mayor and Cabinet - a directly elected mayor with a cabinet of councillors appointed by the elected mayor. Fancy that? The people elect a mayor. Someone directly answerable, now there's a thing!

  • 3) Mayor and Council Manager - a directly elected mayor with an officer appointed by the council who is responsible for the executive's functions. This is similar in concept to option 2 but with a paid official to work full time in the interests and views of the mayor and local people. This effectively means he or she is not politically impartial as, say, the current chief executive's role reportedly is.

The bill is now law and a petition of signatures of just 5% will trigger a ballot on whether to have an elected mayor for North East Lincolnshire Council! The number of voters on the register of electors for this area is 118,000 meaning 5% equals 5940. Two home games and a concerted effort around the pubs, clubs and Freshney place could easily see a petition be achieved. I suspect it may also be popular with the local paper!

It means we would not have to wait until the next council elections. A referendum could be held this autumn and the mayor elections would take place in May. There would be nothing the council could do about it!

The council couldn't stop this. By law the council must hold the referendum and it must ask the simple question 'Do you want an elected mayor?'

Equally important is the fact that the mayor does not have to be a political person or councillor. Anyone could put his or her name forward and would definitely be in place by May (assuming the election is won!).

This is easily achievable, if we combined our resources and with the wealth of public opinion on our side.

We may not even need to promote a GTFC candidate for mayor. Perhaps those from the traditional parties will put forward candidates supporting the new stadium. I suspect any that didn't publicly support the stadium would be committing electoral suicide. But we can decide on candidates later on a rainy day!

Just a reminder - the current mayor and deputy mayor (elected by the councillors) both voted against the stadium.

Are your interested, should Fishy start a campaign, are there better ways or are we simply all talk?

Remember their old motto they quickly dropped 'better because we're closer to the people'?

I've got one for the elected mayor 'elected by the people, to listen and do for the people'.

Todd Bontoft

Todd has written a special karaoke on this topic.

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