Monday, 20 September 2010

Who should rule Barnet?

I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone to learn that there are moves afoot to have a directly elected mayor of Barnet. I have to look at this in more detail, but I don't think I'm in favour of it. (Who needs leaders anyway?)

But I'm interested in discussing the pros and cons. The Wikipedia entry for the topic "Elected mayors in the United Kingdom" goes into some detail of what the mayor can do:
A local-authority elected mayor has powers similar to those of the executive committee in a Leader and Cabinet model local authority. These are described as either "exclusive" powers or "co-decision" powers and are defined in the Local Government (Functions and Responsibilities) (England) Regulations 2000.

Co-decision powers are those the mayor shares with the council, notably the power to make the local authority's annual budget and its policy framework documents. These are: Annual Library Plan; Best Value Performance Plan; Children's Services Plan; Community Care Plan; Community Strategy; Crime and Disorder Reduction Strategy; Early Years Development Plan; Education Development Plan; Local Development Framework; and the Youth Justice Plan. To amend or reject a mayor's proposals for any of these documents, the council must resolve to do so by a two-thirds majority. This is again based on secondary legislation, in this case the Local Government (Standing Orders) (England) Regulations 2001.

Exclusive powers are less easy to define, because they consist of all the powers that are granted to a local authority by Act of Parliament except those defined either as co-decision powers or as "not to be the responsibility of an authority's executive". This latter is a limited list, including quasi-judicial decisions on planning and licensing, and certain ceremonial, employment and legal decisions.

An elected mayor (in a mayor and cabinet system) also has the power to appoint up to nine councillors as members of a cabinet and to delegate powers, either to them as individuals, or to the Mayor and Cabinet committee, or to subcommittees of the Mayor and Cabinet committee. In practice, the mayor remains personally accountable, so most mayors have chosen to delegate to a very limited extent—if at all.
Of course, the beauty of an elected mayor is we get to choose who it is, not the political groups. This supposedly confers more legitimacy on them. It might well be that an independent can get elected. Hmmm.

Now, if we did move to a mayor system who do you think would win? One of the main party candidates? Can you imagine any of the parties being able to put forward any character sufficiently charismatic to impress the voters of Barnet?

Who might stand as an independent mayor? I can imagine one or two people who might do quite well.

This kind of brings me back to my objection to the whole mayor thing: it makes me think of the song "If I ruled the world". Actually, the lyrics to that song are rather sweet, but reality is not like that. In fact, I don't think any one person should "rule" Barnet, or even be in a position to pretend to. (No, I don't like the Leader and Cabinet model, either.)

Words by Leslie Bricusse/Music by Cyril Ornadel

If I ruled the world, ev'ry day would be the first day of spring
Every heart would have a new song to sing
And we'd sing of the joy every morning would bring

If I ruled the world, ev'ry man would be as free as a bird,
Ev'ry voice would be a voice to be heard
Take my word we would treasure each day that occurred

My world would be a beautiful place
Where we would weave such wonderful dreams
My world would wear a smile on its face
Like the man in the moon has when the moon beams

If I ruled the world every man would say the world was his friend
There'd be happiness that no man could end
No my friend, not if I ruled the world
Every head would be held up high
There'd be sunshine in everyone's sky
If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world

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