Author Topic: Online Referendum Petition: 'An Elected Mayor For Swindon? - You Decide'  (Read 4759 times)

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Offline Geoff Reid

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Link to downloadable paper petition sheets coming soon



Who are we and why are we encouraging Swindon voters to sign our petition?


We are ordinary Swindon people who want every one of Swindon's 152,168 voters to have the chance to decide for themselves how future leaders of Swindon Borough Council are chosen. 

At present the Leader of our council is chosen for us by whichever political party holds the most council seats. Under this system the leader of the council cannot be elected or removed by the 152,168 voters of Swindon.  Only a small number of councillors from the same political party can elect or remove the leader.

For example: The current leader of the council, Rodderick Bluh, was elected by just 1292 voters in Dorcan ward, but they were only empowered to elect him to the Council, not to lead it.  A tiny number of just 43 Conservative Councillors decided Councillor Bluh would lead your council and your town. The other 152,125 voters in Swindon had no say in the matter. 

We make no judgement on how well, or how poorly Councillor Bluh is performing as leader of our Council but we do want the voters of Swindon to be aware that they now have the legal and democratic right to decide whether they want to choose future council leaders themselves, or continue having them appointed by a small number of local politicians.

Question: Which is more democratic and representative of the will of Swindon?: Over 152,000 voters able to elect or fire their leader, or just 43 councillors making that choice and the remaining 152,000 voters being unable to influence the appointment either way.

We want to promote a proper Borough-wide discussion on this issue, followed by a Swindon referendum so the 152,168 registered voters can decide for themselves who should select their future leaders. 
 
Talkswindon's many readers might be surprised to learn that Swindon's elected Councillors have no intention encouraging a democratic vote on this, in fact they have already prevented a public vote in 2001, and are already drawing party-political lines and closing ranks against the possibility of another.


Interested?, then read on.



In April 2008 an Institute of Public Policy Research report confirmed that elected Mayors have proved highly capable leaders overseeing improvements in the performance of their councils and developing innovative policies. The IPPR argued that having more towns and cities with mayors could potentially reinvigorate local politics.  It also recognised that the current system is biased against introducing them and a referendum to elect a mayor can only be triggered by a majority vote from councillors or a petition signed by five per cent of constituents.

The Local Government Act 2000 made local councils adopt modern management structures and for the first time gave the electorate the choice between directly electing a Mayor to lead their council or allowing a 'leader of the council' to be chosen by the largest political party in the council chamber.  The Act of Parliament is meant to further empower citizens to choose who leads them in local government.

In 2001, during a chaotic and angry council meeting, 55 Councillors denied the town, its people and itself a genuine opportunity to improve when it carried a motion rejecting public demand for an elected Mayor and taking the power to appoint leaders onto itself.

As per the terms of the Local Government Act 2000, the public of Swindon had to be, and were, consulted by the council before it changed its constitution. Unfortunately for Swindon, a couple of ambitious and ideally placed Councillors interpreted the consultation results in a manner biased toward preserving the party-political status quo and presented a motion to the council which recommended adopting the current system because, it said: The public had shown "Little support for elected Mayors" when it was consulted.

We believe the motion should not have been passed by Swindon Borough Council on the 27th of September 2001. It is of great concern that the leadership structure the council has used ever since was nodded through without debate immediately after a vote of no confidence in the council and mass resignation of the cabinet. (Read below for more detail)



We Say...


  • The public consultation data showed a clear majority supporting directly electing a Mayor for Swindon.

  • The report summary contradicted survey and questionnaire results published within the report itself

  • The report summary relied heavily on data obtained at a poorly attended 'stakeholders' conference held 12 months before the format of the public consultation was even discussed

  • The review panel recommendation was based wholly upon a report summary which contradicted its own report

  • The report summary and review panel recommendation were heavily biased in favour of increasing party political influence and reducing that of the public

  • The vote of 'No Confidence' in the council was engineered and executed by two leading members of the 2001 review panel with the 3rd leading member being the intended target.

  • The motion and vote to adopt the leader and cabinet style of leadership should have been postponed after the vote of No Confidence, instead the chief architect of the vote of No Confidence, and leading member for the 2001 review panel, became the first leader of the council under the new constitution which he had already ensured would be adopted


The review panel stated that the leader and cabinet option was the 'preferred' option.  We ask: 'Who preferred it?"   



We Know that...


Sitting on the 2001 review panel charged with considering the reports summary and making a recommendation to the council were the 3 leaders of the the political parties in Swindon. Sue Bates (Labour), Mike Bawden (Conservative) and Mike Evemy (Lib Dem). Each had a vested interest in the leader and cabinet model being adopted.

The 2001 review panel met, reviewed the report summary, and decided to deliver their recommendation to council at a time of intense political and civic turmoil in Swindon.  We think it should have deferred it's decision to a later date.

At the full council meeting on the 27th of September 2001 the review panel recommendation was placed, perhaps deliberately, a long way down the agenda as item 59: 'Council Constitution – Recommendations of the Review Panel on Consultation on New Political Structures'. Such an important item was preceded by discussions on minimum voting ages, garden composting, Swindon Town Football club, waste plans, bus lanes and the local library plan.

But events had taken a dramatic turn before item 59 even came up.

Agenda item 49 was a Motion of 'No Confidence' in the council. It was 'moved' by leader of the Conservative group Councillor Mike Bawden and was only carried with the assistance of the Liberal Democrat leader Coucillor Mike Evemy and Councillors of both groups. (Bawden & Evemy: Two of the three leading members of the 2001 consultation review panel)

The motion of no confidence was successful. The Labour leader of the council, Sue Bates, and the entire Labour administration immediately resigned and the council meeting had to be adjourned for about 15 minutes while some order was restored.




The councillors filed back into a chamber which now contained a council with no leader and no executive members.

Even so and within a matter of minutes, every single remaining agenda item, including item 59, was 'put' to a vote and 'carried' with no discussion or debate.  To put it crudely, the remaining council business had been simply 'nodded through', after which the councillors rushed out of the chamber to discuss the nights excitement with their colleagues.

So, there you have it. A misleading, inaccurate report summary, politicians jockeying for control of your council with eyes firmly fixed on the 'leaders seat', and a successful power grab. In the middle of this political battle your right to choose how your council leader is chosen had fallen victim to party politics and been trampled by councillors determined to retain that power for themselves.


So what can we do now?

Luckily for us and in the interests of local democracy, the Local Government Act 2000, (and its 2007 amendments), encourage the electorate, (us voters), to force our council to hold a local referendum providing 5% of voters demonstrate their support.



If just 7,608 of Swindon's voters sign this petition the council is required by law to hold a referendum and let all 152,000 voters choose for themselves



let's start by reminding Councillors that our votes are important all year round and not just on election days.




IF YOU ARE A SWINDON VOTER AND WANT A GENUINE SAY IN WHO LEADS YOUR COUNCIL PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION NOW!






If you don't agree that Swindons voters should be able to choose how their leaders are chosen, don't sign the petition but do join the debate!

We don't want you to be prevented from having your say in the way that 152,000 voters were prevented from having their say in 2001





Link to downloadable paper petition sheets coming soon




The Referendum Campaign: 'An Elected Mayor for Swindon? - You decide' is hosted by the Talkswindon forum

The campaign does not claim to represent the collective opinion of the forum membership and therefore invites discussion from all interested people.

The subject can invoke passionate responses so we would politely invite contributors to robustly challenge opinions, but not attack the people posting them.  :) 

All views and opinions are welcome.




Offline Geoff Reid

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David Cameron on elected Mayors, and whether Swindon should have one

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/gOCpc3DtABU&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/gOCpc3DtABU&amp;hl=en&amp;fs=1</a>

Offline PoliticRat

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  • Hello !
Link to petition is not working, would it not be better to get this petition signed using our ward councillors?

Offline Alligator

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Link to petition is not working, would it not be better to get this petition signed using our ward councillors?

Welcome to TS PoliticRat  :)

We'll try to get the link checked out.   

In answer to your question, the issue of using ward councillors is that is assumes they support this method of governance.  My encounters with them is that they don't.  The reasons are discussed within the threads, but my own take on this is that an elected mayor model of governance would place more power in the hands of the people and not the politcial parties and their whips.....something that very few party political councillors will support at the moment.


Offline Geoff Reid

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Link to petition is not working, would it not be better to get this petition signed using our ward councillors?

Link was deliberately disabled after it became apparent that SBC would not recognise an online petition.

The Borough Solicitor, Stephen Taylor, subsequently failed to 'get back in touch' to discuss the legalities of practicalities of the referendum petition - and by then we became somewhat embroiled in other areas of democratic concern.

The subject of a local referendum is still very much alive though, we were planning to revisit this soon after the local elections, but I also hear that the Swindon Liberal Democrats are intending to pursue this  :)