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BANES Mayoral referendum

Article by Emilie Crabb March 9, 2016

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Tomorrow, voters in Bath and North East Somerset will make a huge decision about how their council is run. Amidst all the talk of the EU and whether or not the Brexit is a good idea, BANES Council has quietly allowed another referendum to take place, which will let residents decide whether or not they would like an elected Mayor. If you are planning on voting tomorrow (which you should because all votes matter!), make sure you know both sides of the argument before making your decision.

Emilie Crabb explains the YES campaign

The YES campaign wants people to challenge the way BANES local government is run and elect a Mayor as a representative for the constituency. There are many positive reasons why an elected Mayor for BANES is the positive way forward:

Do you know the name of the current council leader? Are they accountable to the people of Bath for the decisions they make? The answer is no, but with an elected mayor the council would no longer have free reign to act without consequences. For the duration of their term in office, an elected Mayor would be answerable to the people of BANES, and would require their approval before commencing possibly unpopular policies.

An elected Mayor would also choose their own cabinet, which would be above party politics and be comprised of the most suitable people for the job. A Mayor can speak for BANES without the pressures of conforming to a political position.

While the NO campaign argues that an elected Mayor will be a finance burden on BANES, there are numerous ways an elected Mayor could save the area money. Bristol has saved nearly £700,000 since the election of their Mayor in 2012. Essentially it will be part of the elected Mayor’s role to cut costs to the taxpayer and to ensure that money is being well spent.

The YES campaign isn’t about electing a specific person as Mayor, it’s about the people of BANES having the option to elect whoever they wish in the future. If the referendum results are yes, an elected Mayor could be chosen within six months. The YES campaign encourages everyone to vote tomorrow, it’s important that this decision is made by the people of Bath, like all future decision should be.

Sarah Byard explains the NO campaign
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The No campaign focuses largely on the cost of an elected Mayor for BANES. They argue that the cost of a Mayor’s salary would be too high to justify. They claim that a Mayor’s salary would be upwards of £50k a year, although it is hard to verify this. Ben Howlett, MP for Bath, argued on Sunday Politics that an elected Mayor would also put back progress by centralising political power in Bath. He suggested that, because of centralisation of power, rural areas of BANES would be affected negatively as focus would be completely on improving Bath.

Other arguments from the No campaign include not knowing who is going to be taking the role and that it’s unnecessary bureaucracy within the council. However, it is worth noting that the campaign is just to make it possible for a Mayor to be elected; it’s not a case of presenting possible candidates, as that will come later if voters choose to have the role created. It’s also worth noting that the No campaign uses the ethos that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ It’s up to you to decide whether or not you agree with that statement.

Whether you’re voting for or against tomorrow, the most important thing is that you go out and vote at all. The election will open at 7am tomorrow, and you can find where your polling station is by looking at your polling card. Remember, you don’t need to take your polling card with you so don’t worry if you can’t find it!

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