Author Topic: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?  (Read 39929 times)

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Offline James

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #40 on: June 10, 2008, 01:24:04 PM »
I guess the key test is whether there are any other councils who have had several poor reviews and then turned themselves round without the intervention and general broo-ha-ha of a new elected mayor structure. Seems like it could be an expensive way of improving things, if it isn't actually needed.

The other worry for me is that it is another layer between local councillors and government. Marginalising politicians at the most local level feels counterproductive to me. Though it may be they have had their claws and wings clipped too much already for it to make any real difference.

I suspect this town could actually do with an elected mouthpiece as well. A mandate can be useful when discussing things at higher levels of government, or raising awareness of issues impartant to the lacal area.


James

Offline Tel Hudson

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #41 on: June 10, 2008, 05:40:56 PM »
The question to ask is why would anyone think of elected mayors in the first place? The answer is that people don't go out to vote. So by making some kind of gladiatorial contest people who are hard of thinking will go out and vote for the colour of the rosette.

It is such a stupid idea that I hope our town won't suffer from it.

(But this Government might just make it compulsory - and then blame some non-existent EU reg - they normally do.)
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Offline Buster

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #42 on: June 10, 2008, 08:15:10 PM »
It strikes me that this Geoff Reid chappy may be on the ball with his observations about councillors' reactions to the very question of an elected mayor.  I think it's a shame that they're not engaging on this.  Especially when you consider how many of them swarmed onto the site in the days leading up to the local elections.  Imo, their reaction can mean only one thing......it may be time to consider a change in the way we're governed.

I read the NLGN document and although it does appear to be very pro the elected mayor approach, two points stood out to me.

Quote
While an appointed leader and an elected mayor have basically the same functions and powers (and the same limits on those powers)....

and then

Quote
A mayor is equally responsible to the whole city, borough or council, unlike a council leader who has been directly elected from only one ward amongst many and whose power is derived primarily from an ability to retain the support of other councillors (or, more likely, the dominant political party).

The first of these points highlighted to me that a change from one structure to the other isn't really all that significant in terms of what the leader/mayor can do.  There will still be a bod in position with those key functions.  The second point however is the part that really hit home and echoes the points that I've been trying to stress throughout.  As far as I'm concerned, this alone is reason enough to look again at the way we do things in Swindon.

I wonder if an elected mayor would be as hell-bent on putting in a new the canal   :-\

I think this one has legs and some way to go.



Offline komadori

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #43 on: June 11, 2008, 12:21:03 AM »

I read the NLGN document and although it does appear to be very pro the elected mayor approach, two points stood out to me.

Quote
While an appointed leader and an elected mayor have basically the same functions and powers (and the same limits on those powers)....

and then

Quote
A mayor is equally responsible to the whole city, borough or council, unlike a council leader who has been directly elected from only one ward amongst many and whose power is derived primarily from an ability to retain the support of other councillors (or, more likely, the dominant political party).

The first of these points highlighted to me that a change from one structure to the other isn't really all that significant in terms of what the leader/mayor can do.  There will still be a bod in position with those key functions.

It is apparent that for the Mayor plus council manager executive option, the NLGN statement is untrue: the only elected representative with significant power is the mayor and no other councillors.

I wonder if an elected mayor would be as hell-bent on putting in a new the canal   :-\

If it ran through an area where few voted for him and where the likelihood of anyone voting for him was small regardless of whether a canal was built, I'm sure the hell-bent determination would remain.
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Offline swindonlad

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #44 on: June 11, 2008, 06:31:11 AM »
I wonder if an elected mayor would be as hell-bent on putting in a new the canal   :-\

may be not canals per-se, but an elected mayor would be able to push through their pet projects.  IF Rod were elected mayor & not leader of the council the canal project could be further down the path as he could have just made the decision to commission the work.  currently he still has to go to cabinet to get it approved.

[as for canals, don't believe that the £50m will be raised so it's dead in the water]

Offline swindonlad

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #45 on: June 11, 2008, 06:36:51 AM »
looking at a different point, what will happen to the role of mayor as currently exists, currently occupied by steve wakefield who has contributed to this site?

looking at the list of events he has most are very much meet & greet, opening & attending events which does not sit comfortably with an elected mayor's job which is, in effect, the leader of the council & running the business of the council (which i would have thought would have been full time).

i am going to suggest (& the names need to be worked on here to avoid confusion) - the mayor of swindon (as per now) & the elected mayor and leader of the borough of swindon council (the elected mayor)

Offline Alligator

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #46 on: June 11, 2008, 08:42:17 AM »
It is apparent that for the Mayor plus council manager executive option, the NLGN statement is untrue: the only elected representative with significant power is the mayor and no other councillors.

You've lost me now.  What part of this is untrue?  I can't find the section of the NLGN document that says anything else.

I wonder if an elected mayor would be as hell-bent on putting in a new the canal   :-\

If it ran through an area where few voted for him and where the likelihood of anyone voting for him was small regardless of whether a canal was built, I'm sure the hell-bent determination would remain.

so, in that case the main difference is that under a mayoral system, the residents directly affected (Central Ward) would at least have the right to vote (or not) for him.

looking at a different point, what will happen to the role of mayor as currently exists, currently occupied by steve wakefield who has contributed to this site?

I believe this would be unaffected. 

Quote
Firstly an elected mayor does not replace the Civic Mayor, whose role is strictly ceremonial and non-political.

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #47 on: June 11, 2008, 01:28:57 PM »
Would an elected Mayor and his/her administration be more accountable for things like, oh I don't know.... greater than inflation rises in car parking charges than the current administration are?

I mean, how do I hold the current leader of the council to account for charges which I think are excessive?. 

I don't think I can, unless I want to send him a moody note, (which probably wouldn't get answered), but I could help vote a directly elected leader out.....and wouldn't this be a practical demonstration of the meaning of 'government by consent'?

I can withdraw my consent from Rod Bluh's governance and it won't make the tiniest difference to him because I didn't, indeed couldn't vote for or against him being leader of the council. He was chosen on my behalf while I was made to stand impotently on the sidelines.

I could demonstrate my withdrawal of consent for an elected Mayor to govern me by simply voting for someone else.  As far as 'empowering' the voter goes it's an attractive proposition, I can vote for both my ward councillor and a mayor who is finally a genuine civic leader and I can finally hold both of them to account.

Perhaps this is the best two-for-the-price-of-one political offer that's come along for several hundred years and perhaps it is the best way of getting the electorate interested in democracy again. It's certainly worth looking at it in minute detail imho.

I'm not so sure that councillors will be marginalised by changing this system, but I am sure that many of them will have trouble accepting that the rules have changed and that those nearer the top will be there on merit rather than because of an old boys network or masonic handshake.

I'm warming to the idea of an elected Mayor, and in the absence of any comment from our Councillor members I will probably continue to do so.



Offline Bobby Bingo

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #48 on: June 11, 2008, 04:38:46 PM »
Remember one thing and that is a Mayor can be likened to a eunuch. he knows what he would like to do but they have taken his tools away.
Regarding his official functions it appears the local curry houses are using the role of Mayor as cheap publicity for their crap food!
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Offline swindonlinkman

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #49 on: June 11, 2008, 05:36:10 PM »
Please don't confuse what the present honorary ceremonial mayor does and is allowed to do, with the responsibilities of an elected mayor. For example, in Middlesborough former Chief Constable Ray 'Robocop' Mallon cut crime by 18 per cent in his first year of office.

Offline Tobes

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #50 on: June 11, 2008, 05:59:35 PM »
I have to say - after my initial scepticism regarding this, the arguments are persuading me that having an elected mayor might in fact be a very good idea. Case in point, my ward (eastcott) is regarded as a safe Lib Dem seat - obviously to the extent that neither the labour or the conservative candidates bothered to do anything except stuff a single pro-forma leaflet through our letterboxes. I'm also aware that the effects of speaking to my ward representatives about issues of concern is also limited by their lack of political clout as voting minnows in comparison to the conservative majority.

yes... a mayor...
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Offline komadori

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #51 on: June 12, 2008, 12:06:15 AM »
It is apparent that for the Mayor plus council manager executive option, the NLGN statement is untrue: the only elected representative with significant power is the mayor and no other councillors.

You've lost me now.  What part of this is untrue?  I can't find the section of the NLGN document that says anything else.

Sorry. What I should have said is that Buster's analysis of the NLGN document was incorrect, rather than that the NLGN statement is untrue.

I wonder if an elected mayor would be as hell-bent on putting in a new the canal   :-\

If it ran through an area where few voted for him and where the likelihood of anyone voting for him was small regardless of whether a canal was built, I'm sure the hell-bent determination would remain.

so, in that case the main difference is that under a mayoral system, the residents directly affected (Central Ward) would at least have the right to vote (or not) for him.

Correct, but with the disadvantage that, given that Central seems to be inherently red nest territory, the outcome would be the same but we would have a mayor elected for their personality rather than a council leader appointed (at least in part) for their ability. I'd rather have good governence via indirect representation than carp via direct election.

I don't care whether the leader of the council (be that a mayor or something else) is directly accountable or indirectly accountable (via support from councillors) to the electorate. What matters to me most is the quality of governance. I see nothing in the proposals for directly elected mayors that would give Swindon a better quality of leader than the current system. I see a lot in the proposals for directly elected mayors (primarily the influence of personality over ability) that would make governance worse.

I'm also aware that the effects of speaking to my ward representatives about issues of concern is also limited by their lack of political clout as voting minnows in comparison to the conservative majority.

I spent Sunday evening in the presence of two of my ward representatives and although they are not people I would vote for nor of the ruling party, they gave no evidence of being diminished in their ability to address local issues. And although I have heavily criticised both of them elsewhere, I have no reason to doubt their confidence.
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Offline Alligator

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #52 on: June 12, 2008, 09:03:19 AM »
I'm also aware that the effects of speaking to my ward representatives about issues of concern is also limited by their lack of political clout as voting minnows in comparison to the conservative majority.

I spent Sunday evening in the presence of two of my ward representatives and although they are not people I would vote for nor of the ruling party, they gave no evidence of being diminished in their ability to address local issues. And although I have heavily criticised both of them elsewhere, I have no reason to doubt their confidence.

I don't think it's anything to do with their confidence, in fact I see this as part of the problem.  I think that when you consider the bravado of politicians, you realise that in many cases they aren't going to openly admit when they're the political equivalents of Eunuchs.   Instead, if they don't know the answer to something, or aren't privy to the discussions and details pertaining to a question, my experience tells me that they won't admit this, they'll simply sidestep the question or make vague comments that address a question they wish you’d asked.  I can only surmise that they base this approach on the belief that their chances of re-election are greater if they give the public the impression of being more confident, knowledgeable and influential than may be the case, seemingly unaware that this leaves the electorate feeling dissatisfied with them personally. 

I view this as a misguided approach when you consider that the public is fully aware that their real ability to address local issues is, to a large extent, determined by what the council chamber decides, which at the moment is itself largely determined on what the local Tory party decides, which in turn appears to be largely influenced by what the appointed leader decides behind closed doors.

Offline Tobes

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #53 on: June 12, 2008, 09:39:52 AM »
Quote
Quote from: komadori on Today at 12:06:15 AM
Quote from: Tobes on Yesterday at 05:59:35 PM
I'm also aware that the effects of speaking to my ward representatives about issues of concern is also limited by their lack of political clout as voting minnows in comparison to the conservative majority.


I spent Sunday evening in the presence of two of my ward representatives and although they are not people I would vote for nor of the ruling party, they gave no evidence of being diminished in their ability to address local issues. And although I have heavily criticised both of them elsewhere, I have no reason to doubt their confidence.


I don't think it's anything to do with their confidence, in fact I see this as part of the problem.  I think that when you consider the bravado of politicians, you realise that in many cases they aren't going to openly admit when they're the political equivalents of Eunuchs.   Instead, if they don't know the answer to something, or aren't privy to the discussions and details pertaining to a question, my experience tells me that they won't admit this, they'll simply sidestep the question or make vague comments that address a question they wish you’d asked.  I can only surmise that they base this approach on the belief that their chances of re-election are greater if they give the public the impression of being more confident, knowledgeable and influential than may be the case, seemingly unaware that this leaves the electorate feeling dissatisfied with them personally. 

I view this as a misguided approach when you consider that the public is fully aware that their real ability to address local issues is, to a large extent, determined by what the council chamber decides, which at the moment is itself largely determined on what the local Tory party decides, which in turn appears to be largely influenced by what the appointed leader decides behind closed doors.

I have the confidence that my local ward representative will try to act on the behalf of their electorate - its just that as a marginal party, I'm not convinced that the council - or specifically the cabinet - actually listen to them with the same intent as they would if they were fellow tories...
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Offline Alligator

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #54 on: June 12, 2008, 11:22:23 AM »

I have the confidence that my local ward representative will try to act on the behalf of their electorate - its just that as a marginal party, I'm not convinced that the council - or specifically the cabinet - actually listen to them with the same intent as they would if they were fellow tories...

I do agree with this and would add that you can't fault them for at least trying to act on our behalf.

Offline Peter Greenhalgh

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #55 on: June 12, 2008, 04:21:42 PM »
My initial reaction to the concept of an elected mayor is one of caution. The idea of having a single individual responsible for a fixed term of office worries me slightly unless there was a robust way of ensuring they could be removed from office. Further I am not convinced an elected mayor would be much different from our present system, although I appreciate there is a desire to have direct accountability.

As part of the debate I though you might be interested in reading a paper we approved at cabinet last night and discussed at the Swindon Strategic Partnership Conference earlier today, called Connecting People Connecting Places.

http://ww2.swindon.gov.uk/moderngov/Published/C00000285/M00003382/AI00013987/$ConnectingPeopleConnectingPlacesRevised.doc.pdf

Here is an extract of the salient points :-

3.1.1. Empowered Ward Councillors
Ward councillors are the elected, visible and accountable human face of
local government. By localising both the delivery of services and the
development of priorities to smaller geographical areas, ward councillors
will gain a more prominent role as ward leaders and as “place shapers”.

3.1.2. Swindon residents can better influence decision-making
We want to develop a range of ways to enable local people to influence
what happens and how it happens in their area. We see this as an
opportunity for on-going dialogue about services, and not just a one-off
consultation.

3.1.3. Better local access to services
We will investigate the feasibility of utilising existing assets more
effectively to extend one-stop-shop provision within our communities, so
they can access a range of services nearer where they live. Those
services, which can be better delivered centrally, should remain so, with
the locality director having ownership of delivery and accountability and
responsibility for this to the Area Forum.

3.1.4. More localised service delivery
We aim to make more use of data that is available at local level to develop
profiles and plans that are specific to each locality. From ward councillors’
local knowledge, we will develop and agree a locality plan with other
service providers and local people. This locality plan could be renewed
each year and serve as shared objectives for delivery within the locality.

These objectives will be underpinned by use of:
• Service Level Agreements to define what outcomes are desired.
• Clear, SMART, performance indicators so that all can judge what is
being delivered.
• Regular reporting by officers and contractors so that good
performance can be rewarded and augmented while underperformance
can be corrected.

Offline Buster

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #56 on: June 12, 2008, 08:07:57 PM »
It is apparent that for the Mayor plus council manager executive option, the NLGN statement is untrue: the only elected representative with significant power is the mayor and no other councillors.

You've lost me now.  What part of this is untrue?  I can't find the section of the NLGN document that says anything else.

Sorry. What I should have said is that Buster's analysis of the NLGN document was incorrect, rather than that the NLGN statement is untrue.

I think you may have misunderstood what I meant, I wasn't making a reference to the council manager option.  When I referred to the "leader/mayor", I was referring to the appointed leader and an elected mayor, not the elected mayor and the council manager.  The NGLN document is quite clear in making a claim that the elected mayor and appointed leader are similar roles in terms of functions and powers and the limits on those powers.

My initial reaction to the concept of an elected mayor is one of caution. The idea of having a single individual responsible for a fixed term of office worries me slightly unless there was a robust way of ensuring they could be removed from office.

Hi Peter, thanks for adding your thoughts to this.  I can see your concern, however in my view, the right to remove a mayor goes hand in hand with the whole accountability thing, whether the removal is brought about through the ballot box, or carefully set out procedures. 

Just out if interest, do you know what formal procedures, other than misconduct, can bring about the removal of an appointed leader?  The relatively secretive and party political nature of their appointment means that the average member of the public doesn't know what criteria was used when deciding on  the current, or any, appointed, leader, so it's unlikely that we'd know what criteria and processes are currently in existence today for their removal, should the need arise.




Offline swindonlinkman

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #57 on: June 13, 2008, 12:53:57 PM »
It's good to know that the council - at last - is now focussed on becoming more answerable to the electorate. From the 'Connecting People, Connecting Places' report:

7. Implementation Approach
 
7.1. Neighbourhood Management is not new and many local authorities have been deploying a locality working approach for many years The Council has had limited experience in recent years of aligning service delivery to localities and its only recent experience of regular community engagement was via Area Panels. 
 
7.2. In the light of this, it is critical that the Council and its partners take a flexible and pragmatic approach to implementation and is prepared to listen and respond responsibly to people and act on the feedback from residents, stakeholders and Members with regards to what works and what doesn’t. This is the essence of Community Leadership where ultimately the Council takes the decisions but that those decisions are informed by balanced resident feedback combined with good quality data.   
 
7.3. The implementation approach outlined here has been informed by extensive research taken from national pilots and case studies, combined with local interviews and discussions.

Indeed if it doesn't get its act together, the Audit Commission will get its whip out again:

10. Alternative Options
10.1. Do nothing and retain our current arrangements. This will incur a severe risk that Swindon will attract a low Comprehensive Performance Assessment/Comprehensive Area Assessment rating and undo the progress made since 2003.  Such underperformance could lower the public perceptions of Swindon Borough Council, reduce funding and impede the Council’s other policies. A low rating might have adverse impact on the regeneration programme, especially if central government were minded to use their reserve intervention powers.

On the one hand the present administration inherited a pig's breakfast from Labour, but on the other hand, why has it taken them so long to address this issue? Is it that the only way to gain more stars in the government's rating of local authorities is to devolve power downwards? Which makes one ask if its being done for the right reasons and will local councillors enter into the spirit of what is being asked of them?

The Labour Council set up the Area Panels referred to in 7.1 in the late 90s and even gave them some money to spend on local projects, but then cut them back when they started being successful, which coincided with their control of the council being hammered for incompetance by the Audit Commission inspectors.

Which comes back to the issue of secretive and party political nature of the present system and whether it is adequately accountable and transparent. The point of an elected mayor would be that the person has to answer to a much wider electorate, and his or her success will very much depend on the performance, attitude and response of ward councillors to answer to their electorate and not necessarily their party, as implied in 'Connecting People, Connecting Places' report.


Offline ZPW

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #58 on: June 13, 2008, 06:21:00 PM »
Blinding that it's mooted that we move to more local governance.
makes good(ish) sense but needs extra gen.
Clearly... or is it clear?... Garrie perkins will still be the school minister and Peter-the-good will still be minister of roads.
So the local wardens wouldn't have a full remit would they?
What would be on their plate and can they all manage the extra protein? - these wardens applied and were awarded a different job from the one now being suggested.


 

Which comes back to the issue of secretive and party political nature of the present system and whether it is adequately accountable and transparent. The point of an elected mayor would be that the person has to answer to a much wider electorate, and his or her success will very much depend on the performance, attitude and response of ward councillors to answer to their electorate and not necessarily their party, as implied in 'Connecting People, Connecting Places' report.



Bringing us back to the Mayor.
Right now we have a seemingly decent clever leader of the council.
So very lucky that is.
No.one but the councillor can re-select or de-select Rod Bluh - regardless of one's feelings about an elected Mayor it does seem a bit off that this job is in the gift of a few good people and a fair few plonkers.
Wander around the town centre, Cavvie, Manchester road... whatever and ask randon woman who is the leader of the council; some will think it's Gavin-the-rocker and some Mike Baldwin ( you can tell I've conducted a pretty extensive survey) and most won't have the first idea what you're on about.
Why would they? No.one has told them... what's his brief anyway?

If we get our 5% electoral support a gofer a Mayor.. we'll get a stinking load more people engaged..people who will want this person to do as promised.



Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Should Swindon have its own Boris, Brian or a Ken?
« Reply #59 on: June 16, 2008, 10:52:19 AM »
 
 
Quote from: Komadori
I see nothing in the proposals for directly elected mayors that would give Swindon a better quality of leader than the current system.

There is no guarantee of getting a good quality leader with the current party political system either and there are certainly enough good examples of bad leaders in Swindons recent history that weren't put there by the electorate, weren't directly accountable to the electorate, didn't consider themselves to be accountable to the electorate and relied upon machinations and finaglings within the party political system to keep themselves there....ultimately at the electorates expense.

Quote from: Peter Greenhaulgh
"The idea of having a single individual responsible for a fixed term of office worries me slightly unless there was a robust way of ensuring they could be removed from office"

I agree with this....with the caveat that the 'robust way' is a mechanism for the electorate to remove the Mayor, not something other councillors can exercise when they disagree with a Mayors policies.

Let's be brutally honest about this, councillors continually try to scupper each other, (for political purposes), often with complaints to the standards board about opposition councillors.....but seem happy to either 'overlook' or 'hush up' colleagues occasional misdemeanours.....but all of them have party-political motives to want rid of directly elected Mayors.

So no, the electorate will choose or reject the policies of Mayoral candidates at the ballot box, and it is the electorate who grant the newly elected Mayor/Mayoress the mandate to pursue those policies, not other councillors.  Unless there is an element of criminality involved, removing a Mayor must remain in the sole domain of the electorate.

A council might pass a motion of no-confidence in a mayor, but to prevent an un-scrutinsed party-political gang-banging of a Mayor, a successful motion of no confidence should then lead to another Mayoral election where the electorate will decide.

It's called democracy.