Croydon Council will be led by a directly-elected Mayor (DEM) in future after voters expressed a strong preference for switching to the mayoral system at a local referendum held yesterday.
Of the 58,897 people who cast votes, an overwhelming 47,165 chose to adopt a mayoral model, while only 11,519 opted to retain the current leader-and-cabinet set-up, under which the council leader is elected by fellow councillors rather than by voters. Turnout was 21 per cent.
The leader of the Labour-run council at the time, Tony Newman, was opposed to switching to the mayoral system. However, following Newman’s departure a year ago amid severe financial problems at the borough, his successor, Hamida Ali, took a more conciliatory approach.
Hackney, Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets have had directly-elected Mayors since early this century, and governance referendums held in the latter two boroughs in May saw local electors vote strongly in favour of retaining them.
The workings of the mayoral system can vary, however, with power concentrated in the hands of a Mayor or devolved to councillors in different ways and to differing degrees. Croydon Council says its Mayor will appoint a cabinet and delegate powers to it “so that decisions are made collectively, as at present under the leader/cabinet model.”
Both the mayoral and the leader-and-cabinet arrangements are termed executive models of governance, with most decision-making powers held at cabinet level.
Labour in Croydon has been divided over the governance question, with local MPs Steve Reed and Sarah Jones opposed to adopting the mayoral system while key activists in the south of the borough have favoured it, along with Croydon South Conservative MP Chris Philp.
The referendum petition was supported by a political coalition embracing Labour, a former UKIP candidate and residents’ groups unhappy with the “growth borough” policies of the council under Newman, particularly its enthusiasm for more house-building in a borough that has experienced a rapid population increase.
Advocates argued that candidates seeking to become Mayor will have an interest in seeking support across the whole of the borough and tailoring policies accordingly, rather than concentrating their efforts on electoral wards they know they can win. Criticisms of the pro-DEM campaign have included claims that it is motivated by a desire to prevent more homes being built in affluent areas.
Photograph of the referendum declaration from Croydon Council.
On London is a small but influential website which strives to provide more of the kind of journalism the capital city needs. Become a supporter for £5 a month or £50 a year and receive an action-packed weekly newsletter and free entry to online events. Details here.