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COUNCILLORS TO REJECT LEADERSHIP CHANGES

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No support for elected executives...
No support for elected executives

By Nick Golding, political editor

The models for innovative leadership set out by ministers in the local government bill look set to be shunned by councils.

The vast majority are likely to continue with leaders whose positions are dependent on the support of a majority of councillors - the least radical of the three leadership options originally set out in last October's local government white paper.

Senior local government figures expect few councils will adopt the other options of directly electing executives or mayors, despite the prime minister pointedly stressing the need to strengthen local leadership in his foreword to the white paper.

The new breed of leaders' influence will be strengthened by the expectation that they will serve a four-year term. But although the bill to some extent protects them from internal party coups, they can still be removed from office if they lose a vote of confidence in the council chamber.

Sheffield City Council chief executive Sir Robert Kerslake said there was no need for councils to decide immediately which model they would adopt. But he added: 'I suspect we'll see the strong leader model as the prevailing model.'

Chris Leslie, director of the pro-mayor New Local Government Network, said councils were being offered too few carrots to strengthen leadership.

'You could have incentives relating to how the council's leadership is integrated with other agencies where directly elected leaders get involved on the boards of primary care trusts and a place on regional organisations like passenger transport executives,' he said.

Although the white paper removed the need for a referendum before a mayoral system can be brought in, few expect councillors to jump at the opportunity of bringing in an outsider who will effectively take away their opportunity to form the executive.

On the issue of the directly elected executive, the bill confirmed by-elections will be held if an individual is elected to both the executive and the council. The likely political instability is expected to act as a deterrent to the implementation of the model.

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