As you may have seen in this morning's Echo, Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of holding a referendum on whether to have an elected Mayor, on 27 September 2007.
Labour members had a free vote, although this didn't seem to be the case on the Tory side, where Heather Scott pledged that Concservative Councillors would be supporting Cllr. John Williams' motion.
For me, there was something of a dilemma. My views on elected Mayors are well-known, I guess. And as a couple of Councillors pointed out, through their own incompetence, the petition organisers managed to submit an invalid set of names (no mean feat when you consider they only had to collect 3,800 names).
Still, the rules laid down by Parliament mean that the petition organisers could simply have parked themselves on High Row to collect the extra signatures they needed. Flippantly, do we really want that bloke in the scruffy jeans with the megaphone frightening young children as he bawls out his message any more?
More seriously an automatic referendum would have had to take place in late August - immediately around the time of the Bank Holiday. Turnout would have been 15%, perhaps 25% if we were lucky. Last night I thought Councillors on both sides were being way too generous about the petition organisers - in my opinion they handed in the petition in late February precisely to achieve that outcome. They know their plan to create a single-person autocracy here in Darlington doesn't command support across the town, so their only chance was to have a Referendum when only the angry few would be likely to cast a vote.
By agreeing to a Referendum voluntarily, Council was able to rescue the town from that prospect, and set the Referendum date for September 27th, when the vast majority of people will be able to take part.