Bedford votes for mayoral scheme

28 Feb 02
The drive to introduce US-style mayors in Britain has received a minor boost after Bedford approved the idea in a referendum last week.

01 March 2002

Local people supported the proposal by 11,316 to 5,537 votes in the ballot, which was conducted through polling stations.

But ministers can draw only limited comfort from the win. It was secured on a 15.5% turnout, one of the lowest so far. Many of the 22 previous referendums have been conducted through postal ballots and produced higher turnouts.

The vote is the eighth to return a result in favour of directly elected mayors. The policy has seemed to be in trouble in recent months, following a string of referendum defeats. So far, voters in 15 areas have rejected the plan.

But pro-mayoral campaigners believe the Bedford result heralds a change of fortune. Anna Randle, mayoral campaigns manager for the New Local Government Network think-tank, said that the Bedford vote was one of the first triggered by a residents' petition. A referendum on the issue must be held if more than 5% of eligible voters demand one.

She added: 'The result in Bedford signals a new turn for a policy that has a real potential to capture the imagination of the electorate.'

Three more referendums are due to take place in May, in Hackney in London, Mansfield and Newcastle-under-Lyme.


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