In last Friday’s Evening Standard my colleague Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg was quoted as saying that the City of Westminster leadership poll amongst the majority Tory group councillors as an insult to democracy.
He is quite right to point out that a city which has some 250,000 inhabitants won’t have a say but the 48 Tory councillors in a ballot will at the end of the month, only one of whom opposed the discredited “nightlife tax ” policy. The latter showing quite well how out of touch the majority group was on this issue and why l feel the City needs to consider having a directly elected Mayor, as a means of reconnecting with residents again. What better mandate can you give someone then being directly elected by your residents as leader of the council then through the members of the majority political group in the council. Between elections it would then be up to the Mayor to keep in touch with locals in a way that a council leader does not have to do so.
In many ways the City of Westminster is unique in the governance of London similar to the City of London though much more credible in local government terms, having also the seat of government, monarchy and the vast majority of embassies based within its boundaries. Lets not also forget its residents, wildly diverse and living in a host of urban villages like Pimilico, Marylebone, Paddington and Queens Park as well.
Interestingly on the 3rd of May, a number of local authorities are having ballots on whether to have a directly elected Mayors in their councils up and down the country with the full approval of the Department of Local Government & Communities (DLGC). Indeed we already have a number of councils in London which already have this arrangement including Newham, Lewisham and Hackney. So l say, if it can work for them why not the City of Westminster?
More interestly in the Council’s Community Governance Review consultation, the option of a directly Elected Mayor is not put up as an option even though it is incorporated withn the Localism Act for 2011. I think its only right that those responding to this review with its extended deadline now till the 17th of February ask the council why this is the case and get some explanations?
What l am sure about, is that if we had a directly elected Mayor of the City of Westminster, it would be hotly contested. As it would have a profile like no other Mayor of a local authority in London, rubbing shoulders with royalty, diplomats and central government.