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Hear All Sides
9:04am Saturday 15th September 2007 in Darlington
WE can compare the directly-elected mayor system and the current leader plus cabinet system in Darlington to the systems for selecting the US President and the UK Prime Minister.
Our Prime Minister is selected on a similar basis to the current council system, while the US President is directly elected.
If the US elects a chimp, they're stuck with them for a full term of office (or two, if they start a war and pull in the "patriotic" vote).
If we elect a chump, there's a chance that the other MPs in the party will start to get edgy about retaining their seats and will challenge the leadership.
In Darlington, the council leader must be re-selected every 12 months by their party. Should they start making bad decisions, which they can only do if a majority of councillors back them, they face the prospect of being de-selected.
Should an elected mayor start to take bad decisions, which they can do alone or with just one-third of councillors' support, they can carry on making bad decisions until the next election.
A directly-elected mayor is no more or less democratic than the current system, but it has far fewer checks and balances. - Mike McTimoney, Darlington.
THE campaigners for an elected mayor seem to have shot themselves in the foot. Their leaflet appears to have been printed in Rochford, Essex. Couldn't they find a printer in Darlington to do the job?
And what a mistake to print a photograph of the out-of-date town centre now that thousands of people are enjoying the freedom of our vibrant pedestrianised area.
Yes, the electorate was listened to when the public consultation was carried out by the council's officers, and a clear majority were in favour.
When the planning applications committee considered the proposals, the representative of the Civic Trust (who is also a member of the campaign group) was asked three times if he wished to speak - he declined on each occasion.
But a big thank you for mentioning the traditional role of Darlington's mayor (complete with robes and regalia, and non-political, and like the Royal Family).
It will remind our townspeople what will be lost if this small group of campaigners (who took a year to collect their required signatures) get their way to introduce a very non-British way for local government.
Vote "no" in the referendum. - Frank Robson, Darlington.
IN reply to Michael Nicholson (HAS, Page 13, Sept 12) regarding my letter about Frank Robson (HAS, Page 10, Sept 4), at no point did I say he only did it for the money or that he and his wife did not work hard.
The point I was trying to make was the present "elite self-interest club" of Darlington councillors who eventually end up with the position of mayor have a vested interest in the status quo while still on a nice little "council earner".
I am also bewildered that Mr Nicholson says "the 'yes' supporters must be desperate...to stoop to tactics like this". What tactics are they? Letting the electorate know figures available in the public domain, but normally in such small print people (hopefully) don't see them, a fact an unbiased Darlington Borough Council leaflet seemed to conveniently omit.
The only reason the "no" campaigners are up in arms is that the extent of councillors' allowances and perks is becoming more public and they are worried voters will see through the veil of what has been an elitist club for years and actually vote "yes".
That is called democracy, something lacking within the council for many years under the present leader system. - Ian White, Hurworth.
RE Martin Wood's letter (HAS, Page 10, Sept 11) about the Lady Godiva re-enactment staged to highlight the campaign for an elected mayor for Darlington (Echo, Sept 10).
I repeat his comments: "Supporters of an elected mayor in Darlington do not seem to know their history. Lady Godiva was naked when she rode through the streets of Coventry: not robed in a long cloak as in the recent re-enactment in Darlington".
I and many others would be pleased if Mr Wood would quote his informed source to support his statement. Centres of learning Oxbridge, the British Library or the school playground perhaps? I will not hold my breath while I wait his fruitless search.
Mr Wood also said: "It seemed a strange choice of character to me in any case. Godiva was campaigning against the feudalism of her husband".
Correct. Mr Wood gave a fair view of our council cabinet leader's practices.
The contribution that Lady Godiva gave to the City of Coventry is celebrated each year by re-enacting the Lady Godiva procession. One person can make such a difference. - Brian Parkinson, Darlington.
MUCH comment has been made recently about democracy in relation to the referendum for an elected mayor in Darlington, but the current borough council leader, Councillor John Williams, and his colleagues really have no one to blame but themselves for this issue coming to the fore.
Their lack of openness, particularly in relation to the protracted Tesco negotiations, did not suggest a great deal of concern for the electorate.
The council leader is actually elected by a very small number of voters in his ward, but then wields considerable power.
An unpopular elected mayor could be voted out by all the voters of Darlington and in the aftermath of the council's recent fiascos, Coun Williams, could well have found himself in that position if everyone could vote for or against him. Other councillors polled more votes.
Accountability to the whole of the electorate is the key issue here. - Graham Hunsley, Darlington.