Salford will hold elected mayor referendum

Salford Civic Centre
Image caption Salford City Council were handed a petition asking for the referendum in July

Salford residents are to be given the chance to decide if they want an elected mayor.

The council has validated a petition on the issue and confirmed a referendum will be held, possibly in March 2012.

Landlord Geoffrey Berg, started the petition in response to what he called "the inefficiency of Salford council".

Council leader John Merry said he was opposed to elected mayors "because it concentrates all the powers in one person".

Mr Berg's petition in favour of the referendum was handed to the council in July with around 10,500 signatures.

After checking against records, the council has now confirmed that 9,062 signatures were genuine.

As that figure is higher than the 8,530 threshold required to trigger a referendum, the council has said it will definitely now happen.

Tax issue

Mr Berg, of the English Democrats Party who lives in Prestwich, Manchester, but holds property in Salford, said that his main issues with the council were "high council tax" and that the Labour group's long-standing majority on the city council had made it complacent.

"The council tax in Salford is higher than any of the six neighbouring councils," said Mr Berg.

"Obviously, it depends on who is elected, but people will have a choice of electing a mayor who has a lower council tax.

"The problem is that [the Labour Party] have been in over 40 years.

"Salford, more than other councils, have allowed themselves to become complacent.

"They are not the only party that has been in power for a very long time, but they seem to be one of the worst offenders."

Mr Merry said that the idea of an elected mayor for the city was a bad one and that he had "never felt the need to have every single power concentrated in me".

He said that the people of Salford already had the opportunity to change leadership in the authority through annual council elections, something that would not be available under an elected mayor.

"If we have an elected mayor, they get a vote every four years and it doesn't actually matter what happens on three of the four years, so as far as I'm concerned, the current system is more democratic."

He also said that the £200,000 cost of the referendum would have to be paid by the council and would come on top of the recent budget cuts announced for councils nationally.

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