Tuesday, January 24, 2006

City sees stirring of Political Revolution

Campaign for US-style mayor rises again
The Journal
Tuesday January 24, 2006
by Ross Smith

The North's biggest city appears likely to have a second referendum on whether it wants an elected mayor, after politicians and campaigners backed calls for a fresh vote.
Sunderland rejected the idea of a directly elected mayor in a referendum in 2001.
But a five-year moratorium on a second referendum ends this autumn, and supporters of the idea are already preparing a campaign.

A city-wide ballot could be staged if the city council passed a motion calling for one.
But while the ruling Labour group is thought unlikely to do that, a petition containing 10,500 signatures, representing 5% of the city's population, would force a vote.

A string of figures in the town said yesterday they would be prepared to support a petition, saying people were dissatisfied with Labour's leadership of the council.

Council leader Bob Symonds said last night: "We will continue to monitor developments to see what the people of Sunderland want or decide to do."

Conservative group leader Peter Wood said: "There's certainly a coalition of interest in the city, which I think is likely to come together in the near future and probably raise this petition. "There's a feeling that the leadership provided by the Labour group is pretty lacklustre."

Independent councillor Michael Tansey, a former Labour member, said: "I don't think Labour is working for the people of Sunderland and I would like to see a high profile person stand.
"I'm confident that in the not too distant future, those of us who are despondent about what's happening will get the required number of signatures."

Colin Wakefield, chairman of the Residents against Toxic Site group in Houghton-le-Spring said: "We cannot just lie down and see people not being properly represented because of the good of the [Labour] party."

Sunderland activist Neil Herron, who led the North East No Campaign against a regional assembly, also signalled his support for a vote.
He said: "It's nice to have a political fuse lit in Sunderland that would excite and enthuse the public."

There were suggestions that Mr Herron might stand in a mayoral election if one was staged. He insisted last night he had no plans to do so, but did not rule it out.
There are elected mayors in Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, both independents, and in North Tyneside Labour recently won the post from the Conservatives.

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