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KEY REPORT CALLS FOR CHANGES TO IMPROVE LOCAL REFERENDUMS

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The Electoral Commission today publishes its report on the 16 mayoral referendums held in England in 2001 on whethe...
The Electoral Commission today publishes its report on the 16 mayoral referendums held in England in 2001 on whether to have a directly elected mayor. 'Reinvigorating Local Democracy? Mayoral Referendums in 2001' examines how each referendum was run and makes recommendations for good practice.

The commission endorses concerns raised by local authorities, politicians and the electorate that the referendum question is potentially misleading, biased and difficult to understand. The commission would welcome the opportunity to work with government in revising the question

The Electoral Commission also recommends changes to the legislation which prevents councils from generating publicity materials or promoting the referendum in the 28 days leading up to it.

The commission's chairman, Sam Younger said: 'Information is critical to voter turnout. In the run up to a referendum, voters must know what they are voting for and understand the issues as well as the consequence of their vote.' In view of this, the commission recommends that factual information about what the referendum is about should be made available to the electorate in the lead up to the day it takes place.

The full report is available on the Electoral Commission's website.

Notes

- The Electoral Commission is independent of government and aims to ensure openness and transparency in the financial affairs of Britain's political parties, and to increase public confidence and participation in the democratic process.

- Councils which held mayoral referendums in 2001 were Berwick-upon Tweed, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Watford, Doncaster, Kirklees, Sunderland, Brighton & Hove, Hartlepool, Lewisham, Middlesbrough, North Tyneside, Sedgefield, Redditch, Durham and Harrow

- The question electors were asked was 'Are you in favour of the proposal for (name of city or borough) to be run in a new way, which includes a mayor, who will be elected by the voters of that (borough, city, county or district), to be in charge of the council's services and to lead (name of local authority) and the community it serves.'

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