Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Council Leader vs Elected Mayor

The Elected Mayor's new Cabinet meets for the first time...

Whilst I'm on the subject of Ian's letter, he repeats a misunderstanding about the role of the current Council Leader which is often used by Yes campaigners.

Ian suggests that creating an elected Mayor will simply transfer the powers of the current Council Leader to a Mayor selected by the people of the town.

In fact, in Darlington's constitution, the Leader cannot make decisions alone, but has to do so through Cabinet and Council. Checks and balances are therefore built into the system. These play out on a day to day basis, although like Cabinet government in Westminster, the impact is not always seen.

An elected Mayor really does take a shed load of decisions himself (and it almost always is a he, by the way). No need for Cabinet, or Council for many issues, then - the elected Mayor can sort out these tricky issues in the bath, consulting his rubber duckies.
Even on some of the really big decisions, the Elected Mayor can have his way with the agreement of just a third of Councillors. With a certain kind of character at the helm, democracy will seem a very long way away...


Ian White, townliar.com said...

That may be true Nick, but when he has already hand picked his Labour Cabinet of "yes men" it does tend to mean he gets what he wants!
I do agree (shock horror) that the choice of the hands on the helm are very very important, we are all still living with the last bad decission!

Darlington Councillor said...

Hi Ian.

Do you really think I would have bothered to sit round as a Cabinet Member for the last 10 years, if I was only a "yes man" for John Williams?

Of course it's true that the Leader selects the Cabinet - so does the Prime Minister in the Westminster system which local government structures are now based. Like the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Council is simply primus inter pares or first amongst equals (there's a helpful definition on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primus_inter_pares) So as a Cabinet member, I follow the policy laid down not by the Leader, but by Council and Cabinet.

Of course, John provides day-today- leadership, but there is wide discretion for Cabinet members to pursue their own initiatives, providing of course that any decisions taken are approved by either Full Council or Cabinet.

miketually said...

Am I right in thinking that if the Council Leader started making bad decisions mid-term they could be removed from that position by the other members of the cabinet, or their local party?

I assume we'd be stuck with a directly elected mayor for the full four years?

Ian White, townliar.com said...

If it were that simple the leader would gone the day he broke his promise to the people of Hurworth that the school would not close!!
As for "started making bad decisions" I think your way behind the times mate!
As for "yes men" maybe not you in particular but many (rightky or wrongly)feel that some DO sit around for years just to get their nice allowances!
As for "first amoung equals" doesn't that seem a strange expression if you all are equal how can anyone be first?

Darlington Councillor said...


Dissecting Latin tags is beyond me too! The phrase does try to sum up the duality of the role of Leader in a quasi-Parliamentary system.

I can only say of my colleagues that there are no "freeloaders" there - believe me, they wouldn't last 5 minutes.

And yes, Mike, as Ian has tacitly conceded, in the Leader/Cabinet model we have in Darlington, the Group Leader has to be re-elected every year. That's just one small element, however, of the wider story - the Leader has to proceed with the consent certainly of Cabinet and his/her political Group, and on bigger issues, with the consent of Council.

The only dissent the Elected Mayor has to worry about are the quacks from the rubber duckies.... :)

Ian White, townliar.com said...

Call me thick but why the continued reference to rubber ducks?

Darlington Councillor said...

Maybe I'm going quackers....

Anonymous said...

I think the whole country is going quackers, more so if we stay in the EU.

Wheres our promised EU referendum?

Didn't Bliar promise the people one before he went, then again he was new Labour!