19 December 2008
By Julie Read
Town hall leaders are unenthusiastic about new proposals designed to make it easier for residents to call a referendum on local council leadership.
The consultation, Changing council governance arrangements, was published on December 15 by the Department for Communities and Local Government. It reviewed the process for calling a referendum on how to change local governance arrangements to introduce either a directly elected mayor or indirectly elected council leader. The DCLG proposed to lower the petition threshold of local electors that triggers a referendum from 5% to 4%, 3% or 2%.
Among the other proposals is the introduction of online or e-petitioning alongside the traditional paper format and reducing the time between referendum votes from ten to four years.
But the Local Government Association was unenthusiastic. A spokesman said: 'Local people want decent schools and clean swimming pools more than a say in their council structure.'
He added: 'What really drives residents' satisfaction is perceived value for money and how well informed they feel.'
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said: 'I believe local people know what is best for their area so they must have the power to decide how it is governed. It is right that we make it easier for them to decide which form of council leadership is right for them.'