Small council with big ideas of breaking mayoral mould

28 Sep 00
A directly elected mayor for just 22,000 people is hardly what Tony Blair had in mind for his new system of political governance, but one of England's smallest boroughs is leading the mayoral race.

29 September 2000

An independent councillor on Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough Council has already stolen a march on mayoral hopefuls Birmingham, Watford and Lewisham by lodging a petition for a directly elected mayor.

Brian Douglas of the New Labour Liberal Independent Party has managed to collect the supporting signatures of 5% of the Berwick population to a bid to force the council to hold a referendum.

Douglas's reforming zeal may be a step ahead of some of the more progressive local authorities, but he does have the advantage of living in the second most sparsely populated borough in England, requiring just 1,100 signatures for a referendum.

Douglas is likely to be the first candidate, but with an annual budget of just £3m the mayor will wield little power.

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said they were validating the petition and would announce a decision on a referendum next month.

The earliest date for the poll could be next spring and could easily pip Birmingham and Lewisham to the post.


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