AN ATTEMPT will be made next week to rally political opposition to an elected mayor in Sheffield.
Councillors of all parties will be asked to line up behind a ‘no’ vote at a referendum to be held at the same time as the local elections, on May 3.
So far none of the major parties in Sheffield have shown any enthusiasm for switching from the existing local system that concentrates power in the hands of a council leader and cabinet and they believe there has been little public appetite for change, either.
But some local political leaders fear that the question to be posed could tip any balance. It will ask how voters would like the council to be run. By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors, as it is now, or by a mayor who is elected by voters.
In addition, the issue could be decided on the traditonally low turnout in local elections.
At present, there are 16 directly elected mayors in the UK, most notably Boris Johnson in London, and supporters say a high-profile political leader with strong powers generates interest in local decision making and heightens accountability.
It can also be seen as an opportunity for Sheffield to freshen its image on the national stage.
Already the city has a mayor, chosen by the council and restricted to ceremonial responsibilities.
Veteran Sheffield Labour councillor Joan Barton is aiming to argue the case for no change when the full council meets on Wednesday, seeking formal cross-party support.
Her notice of motion says the city already has strong civil and political leadership and points to “significant costs” where authorities have directly-elected mayors, and the example of Doncaster where there was “gridlock” between the mayor and the council in deciding budgets.
Coun Barton says that the mayoral system leads to a greater chance of local views being ignored becsuae Sheffielders can vote for councillors three out of every four years, but mayors “can do whatever they want for the next four years”.
lThe union, Unison, is campaigning for a ‘no’ vote on May 3.