Worthing Daily welcomes our new Canadian Mayor Michael Donin and Mayoress Linda Williams who were installed at the Mayor Making on Friday (May 22nd). It was a pleasure to see the red and white ‘maple leaf’ flying outside the Town Hall. We wish Michael and Linda a successful year.
Michael ceased being Mayor Elect when he was sworn in and signed his declaration – Mayor Elect as opposed to elected Mayor. In fact Cllr Donin was elected by a unanimous vote of both sides of the Council Chamber on Friday but not by the people of Worthing to his new position directly.
With different political structures being widely discussed after recent elections resulting in giving Scotland more powers Worthing Daily looked at some of the possibilities.
Firstly, elected Mayor – London has Boris Johnson and as at today there are 16 others ranging from Bristol to Watford. Hartlepool famously had a monkey as Mayor – H’Angus the town’s football mascot, aka Stuart Drummond, from 2002 to 2013 but the post was disestablished in 2013 as was Stoke-on-Trent’s elected Mayor in 2009.
In 2012 a referendum was held in 11 English cities but only one – Bristol voted for an elected Mayor with Doncaster voting to retain theirs. Birmingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sheffield and Manchester all voted “no”. Yet in the Conservative election manifesto David Cameron promised a Tory government will legislate for an elected Mayor for Greater Manchester in a new devolution package.
Greater powers to the regions is part of the fallout from the Scottish Nationalist Party‘s (SNP) overwhelming success in Scotland. In fact previously a regional parliament for the North-East of England was suggested and rejected in a referendum in 2004.
In West Sussex, County Council Leader Louise Goldsmith has struck while the iron is hot and announced on Friday (May 22nd) she is pushing for more powers to be devolved from Central Government to the South East. Ms Goldsmith mentioned five areas of devolution: (a) fiscal devolution – access to defined additional funding (business rates and stamp duty); (b) road and rail infrastructure; (c) employment and skills; (d) social care and health and (e) infrastructure for the future.
Ms Goldsmith said she would work with the seven boroughs and districts on the devolution offer but Dr James Walsh (Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group) asked whether it would not be better to go to a Unitary Authority and disband the borough and district councils. Dr Walsh argued the savings in removing duplicated posts e.g. Chief Executives and Finance Officers would be enormous. Ms Goldsmith rejected the idea as too disruptive at the present time and amounted to ‘moving the deckchairs around the Titanic’. UKIP has also argued recently for a Unitary Authority.
Devolution to County Counties is more complex than the recent spate of City Deals as Ms Goldsmith pointed out but Worthing is already partner in a City Deal with Brighton – ‘Greater Brighton’. New Worthing Borough Council Leader Dan Humphreys came out in support of Ms Goldsmith but has he forgotten about his City Deal or will that now be quietly dropped? Or is there some compromise available?
Worthing Daily supports the idea of more devolved powers and more local accountability but it also supports the disbanding of borough and district councils in favour of a Unitary Authority. In Worthing we would not only save officer posts but also not need the 37 councillors on Worthing Borough Council. With much greater responsibilities Worthing has only nine West Sussex County Councillors – much better value for money.
But how would that leave the position of Mayor – elected or otherwise? Well, we could still have a less expensive Town Council as Rye does and they have had a Mayor since 1289.