By: Hannah Richardson
COUNCILLORS in Leicester are set to vote next week on the future of the mayor’s office at a special meeting.
They will be given the choice between continuing with the current mayoral system or reverting to a committee-style system at the Leicester City Council meeting on Thursday (9).
The special meeting was called by councillor Jacky Nangreave. Independent councillors Lindsay Broadwell and Daniel Crewe, and Conservative members Deepak Bajaj and Sanjay Modhwadia also backed the meeting.
Leicester’s Tories had called for a vote on the office – held by Labour’s Sir Peter Soulsby since its introduction 12 years ago – to take place at last week’s full council meeting. However, the city council said the motion calling for the debate was submitted too late.
More than half of the authority’s 54 councillors will need to vote to scrap the office for the motion to pass.
Labour holds 48 of the council’s seats, with three independent members, two Conservatives and one Liberal Democrat making up the remaining membership.
Jacky Nangreave has been calling for the end of the mayor’s office for some time, including organising a petition in a bid to gather enough support to trigger a referendum.
She told LeicestershireLive: “I still want a committee system. I think the system we have is not fair and I don’t think it is working.”
Leicester’s Conservatives is one of two political parties pledging a rethink of the council’s leadership if they come out on top in May’s elections. While the Tories have promised to eliminate the position within one year of taking office, the Green Party in the city has said it will hold a referendum.
“Our priority as Tories is to restore trust in our electoral system in Leicester,” a spokesperson for Leicester’s Conservatives said. “Removing the position of City Mayor will ensure politicians are held to account at every level of office.
“The position isn’t accountable and gives too much power to one individual in this city. Scrapping the City Mayor shouldn’t be a partisan issue and we urge councillors of all sides to come together, do the right thing for our city and back the new deal for Leicester.”
However, Sir Peter previously told LeicestershireLive the current attacks on his position are because those standing against him do not feel confident. He believes taking away electorate’s choice by reverting back to a leader of the council-style system in which councillors would choose who heads the authority would be the truly undemocratic step.
“They have been trying desperately to get together the signatures they need for a referendum and they have just completely failed to win public support,” he added. “They have been trying for months and months and months to get the necessary five per cent, so in desperation at the very last minute they are bringing this.
“The people of Leicester have voted at three successive mayoral elections and given the Labour candidate an increased majority on each occasion. They are just very much afraid they have no chance whatsoever of ever winning in Leicester. I’m not in the slightest surprised that they’re trying to do this.”
The LDRS previously asked Sir Peter whether Labour councillors would be able to vote on any such motion as they wish, or whether members will be whipped to vote against it.
He said: “Labour is very committed to giving the people the city the right to choose who will lead the city and I would very much expect that all Labour members will want to stick by that. As far as I’m aware, not a single member of the Labour group has ever spoken to me to say they want an end to the mayoral system. Not a single member.”
(Local Democracy Reporting Service)