Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Chance of Mayoral Elections in Sunderland

As Sunderland Council lurches from one crisis to another the political leadership is conspicuous by its absence.
No comment from the Labour Leader, Mr. Symonds, over the Decriminalised Parking shambles.
What is apparent from the comments from the invisible Mr. Symonds is that something is troubling him.
As part of the No Campaign against an elected Regional Assembly our objection was to more unwanted politicians and more unwanted bureaucracy. The Council leader supported the 'Yes' perspective. The people endorsed the 'No' vote and a 78% rejection of Precott's folly was achieved.
Mr. Symonds did not speak out against the prosecution of Steve Thoburn. Again he, and his fellow Labour councillors were on the wrong side of public opinion.
The Council's Cabinet was in favour of the draconian parking enforcement regime that has angered the City's residents and businesses and been exposed as an absolute shambles by a damning internal investigation. The people were never consulted.
All of the above have been exposed by exhaustive investigation and campaigning in the public interest, paid for by voluntary public donations while Mr. Symonds collects his £40,000+ salary from the public purse.
All of the matters and concerns raised have been very much in the interest of the people of Sunderland and the silence of the Leader has been deafening. Yet he now speaks...and questions whether the Mayors of Hartlepool and Middlesbrough have made a differnce.
The petition hasn't even begun to collect signatures for the Mayoral referendum and already the Labour Leader of Sunderland Council has attempted to personalise it.
What are you frightened of Mr. Symonds...the people of Sunderland or the shining of the spotlight on the competence of the current political structures?
Perhaps it is time to let the people of Sunderland speak on the subject.

Sunderland Echo
Monday, January 23, 2006

Sunderland could have its own elected mayor in a year's time - if voters want one.

Although a referendum rejected the idea five years ago, a time limit on a second referendum has been lifted and there could be a new election in 2007.

Rules dictate more than 10,000 signatures - five per cent of the city's 210,000 electorate - have to be collected to start a ballot on whether Sunderland gets its own version of Middlesbrough's "Robo-cop", Hartlepool's "monkey" or even Ken Livingstone.

City council leader Bob Symonds said his Labour party was monitoring developments and would see what the people wanted or decided.

Neil Herron, who has campaigned against a North East regional assembly and highlighted loopholes in Sunderland's parking rules, said he was not planning to stand as a candidate yet.

Mr Herron said: "I would have to think about it and I have no plans at the moment to stand. But, there's a lot of groups that are disappointed with the political landscape of the city and it may be that now is the right time to look again at the system."

Labour dominates the city council and opposition Tories, who have 12 councillors compared with Labour's 60, are debating whether they are for or against a mayoral system over the next few weeks.

In the North East, Middlesbrough has a directly elected mayor, "Robo-cop" Ray Mallon and Hartlepool's Stuart Drummond who stood for election dressed as a "monkey".

Coun Symonds said: "They have a profile, but I would question whether or not directly elected mayors have made a difference to those towns. I do not believe it has."
Coun Symonds said voters had spoken on whether or not they wanted a change in the political system when there was the referendum for a regional assembly in 2004 and a city election was looming.
"Somebody such as Neil Herron is always questioning layers of bureaucracy and Government so would he be standing for the people of Sunderland or is it a matter of personal ambition?"

Some surveys have suggested that mayors, who include Ken Livingstone in London, are better than a traditional council leader.

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