Elected mayor for Leeds – an enormous choice?

Leeds at a political junction.
This photo 'Choices' is by Bill Dickinson, 'Sky Noir' on Flickr, and used under creative commons.

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J. K. Rowling

The Thursday 3 May referendum (to be held alongside the local elections) will ask how we would like Leeds City Council to be run. Do we want an elected leader chosen by other councillors – the way the council is run now? Or do we prefer a mayor directly elected by voters?

This question has been set by central government, and according to the Culture Vulture website ‘The most critical point of this debate is that we, the citizens of Leeds should have an understanding of the enormity of the choice we are being given on May 3rd.’

It’s interesting that in England we don’t directly choose the Prime Minister. Political parties choose who they think will best lead them, then at general elections we choose the best local candidate, and according to which party gets most seats, their leader becomes PM. So directly electing a major for Leeds would mean something more like the American presidential style election.

Alison Neale has written a reasonably balanced look at the pros and cons of the issue. A directly elected mayor might be freer of party influence, and more likely to act in the interests of the city as a whole. On the other hand the concentration of power could mean our elected councillors are undermined, and if the wrong person gets elected there will be less checks.

It’s complicated! But one thing for sure, it will affect us all a lot, so we ought to get up to speed! Terry

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