UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Salford needs more Lads Clubs not an Elected Mayor

Last night’s results in the Salford Mayor referendum are alarming and should act as a wake-up call to trade unionists everywhere. Just 18.1% of the total eligible electorate voted in the referendum in Salford triggered by a petition from the right wing English Democrats Party (who claim they are not anti-anything but want a devolved English Parliament) http://www.socialistunity.com/english-democrats-party-all-rotten-apples-in-a-rancid-barrel/

A miniscule party that attracts some very tardy right wing members and supporters. The results of 17,344 people voting yes, with 13,653 voting against means that Salford will have an Elected Mayor – that’s the result of ‘democracy’. The election will take place on 3 May on the same day that 10 largest English cities outside of London will hold imposed referenda on whether they should adopt the Mayoral model of governance: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16720832

In reality it has been a catastrophic failure of the left and unions to organise against this fig-leaf policy to impose popularist Mayors, often of the right wing ’hang em and flog em’ school of public policy on local areas – whose powers outstrip those of the majority of councillors selected on higher turnouts.

The idea of an elected mayor being somehow more democratic is ludicrous. In most English authorities councillors are put up for re-election on a rolling basis of a third of all seats each year, allowing regularly opportunity for the public to remove those councillors or council leaders that are failing to deliver.

Elected Mayors have a term of four years and even when they are an unmitigated disaster it is nigh on impossible to remove them. Just look at Stoke. In other areas opposition party Mayors have imposed policies deliberately frustrating those of the majority council. In places like Doncaster and North Tyneside Elected Mayors have pursued random outsourcing policies against the will of the majority council. Conservative Mayors ruling over a labour council is not an unusual turn of events when Elected Mayors are voted upon.

Now is the time for UNISON to organise against this threat. We need to campaign and educate our members what it means to simply not bother to turn out to vote against Elected Mayors. Apathy on the part of the electorate who are unlikely to want a mayor but didn’t bother to go to the polls has led to this outcome. In a place like Salford riddled with poverty and bleeding under the weight of public sector cuts the idea that millions of pounds of public money is spent on a new Mayoral office, election costs and new constitutions is remarkable. Salford people need more lads clubs not more politicians.

Anna Rose