Sunday, November 12, 2006

An Elected Mayor for Darlington?

The petition to trigger a referendum in Darlington on whether or not to abandon our traditional ceremonial Mayor for a politician drags on. As always there are arguments on both sides (and the policy is of course a Labour Government initiative, apparently to help revive municipal democracy).

What I find objectionable about the campaign here is the excessive spin employed by the petition organisers. In today's Echo, they stated that they had 2,600 of the signatures needed to trigger a town-wide ballot - see

Really? On the Referendum Campaign's own website ( they helpfully have a series of links to previous Echo stories where they have made the following claims;

- in Feb 06 they said they had collected "many of the 3900" signatures necessary to force the Referendum.
- in April 06 they were predicting that they would have collected the names by the end of that month.
- in August 06 they said they had 2000 signatures, and so were half-way there.

For a group of people who get so worked up about local government in the town in Hear All Sides on a regular basis, they seem rather free and easy with the facts themselves. I think what we can ascertain is that in a town where the "Say No to Tesco" campaign successfully signed up over 11,000 people in a matter of weeks, progress on the Referendum has been very hard going indeed.


Mike said...

As a non-politician, the campaign for an elected major is just not being talked about by anyone I know.

Almost everyone I spoke to had an opinion on whether Tesco should build in the Town Centre (you can probably guess what their opinion was...), and most people had a view about the Hurworth/eastbourne merger.

I just don't think anyone outside the Hurworth/White Horse/Taxi Drivers/Anti-Pedestrian Heart campaign groups is really concerned about whether we have an elected major or not.

Darlington Councillor said...

That's interesting Mike.

I think your observation is borne out by the length of time it has taken the organisers to scrape together 2,600 signatures - at least 9 months by my calculation. In desperation, they've now sent out thousands of blank petitions in a local magazine, hoping that some will reply.

To be blunt, the campaign was organised by people last year who wanted Labour out of authority in the Town Hall - it was never about whether this or that form of municipal government was best for Darlington. With local elections looming in May, people who want an alternative party running the Council have every opportunity to vote for that option in several different ways.

In my opinion, the Referendum has been overtaken by events, and is now redundant.