Whitehall postpones vote on mayors

14 Mar 02
Ministers have again deferred a decision to impose a referendum about directly elected mayors on Birmingham, the country's largest local authority, even though they admit they are likely to force a vote.

15 March 2002

Local government minister Nick Raynsford said any final decision on imposing a referendum in Birmingham - and also in Bradford - will be delayed while the Electoral Commission reviews voting arrangements.

It will report its findings during the summer, after the local elections on May 2. Ministers were thought to be anxious to avoid taking any action before then in case it jeopardised Labour's chances at the polls.

Tony Smith, policy development officer at Birmingham City Council, said the decision by the government left the authority 'in limbo'. But he agreed that changes were needed to the referendum process.

The commission will look into the wording of any referendum question and at the ban on promoting referendums in the 28 days leading up to any vote. This is thought to be one reason for low turnouts. That is expected to change as a result of the commission's review.

Raynsford said: 'We had indicated that the secretary of state [Stephen Byers] was minded to direct mayoral referendums in Bradford and Birmingham on the grounds that councils in these areas have not had due regard to the outcome of the consultation they have been required to carry out.'


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