Doncaster says yes to elected mayors

27 Sep 01
Doncaster, labelled as local government's most rotten borough, will next May become the first northern English town with a directly elected mayor.

28 September 2001

Residents on September 20 voted by almost 2:1 in favour, with 35,453 residents backing the idea and 19,398 saying no. Turnout was 25%.

The council said the mayoral vote would take place in May 2002 at the same time as the borough's council elections. Whoever wins the vote would then take office with almost immediate effect.

Early frontrunners for the job could include current Labour council leader Martin Winter and independent councillor Martin Williams.

Winter, along with the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups, originally opposed the idea of a mayor but called the vote an 'historic day for Doncaster'.

Williams, the only councillor backing the idea of a mayor, heads the six-strong community group of independent councillors and said a candidate would definitely come from one of its members.

He added that the 'yes' vote could be seen as a desire for a fresh start for local government in the South Yorkshire town, which had been dogged for years by allegations of sleaze, known locally as 'Donnygate'.

'Everybody is fed up with "Donnygate". People wanted a totally different system. We haven't got anywhere with what's gone on,' said Williams.

Since 1997, 21 councillors have been convicted of expenses fraud, including former leader Malcolm Glover. At least four councillors have been jailed as part of the investigations, one for eight months. The last councillor to be convicted was sentenced earlier this month.

Williams believes that the combination of sleaze and a desire for a new type of local politics could lead to a non-Labour politician being elected in what is one of the party's most loyal constituencies.

'I think people will vote for the person rather than the politics of the mayor,' he said.

He is also convinced that the reaction of New York's Mayor Rudy Giuliani to the attacks on the World Trade Center persuaded Doncaster's residents of the need for a mayor. 'He came up trumps for New York and that was before the election.'

Two of the town's most famous celebrities, footballer Kevin Keegan and soprano Lesley Garrett, are not expected to stand.

Doncaster will move to a leader and Cabinet model on October 1 as an interim arrangement.


Did you enjoy this article?